Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Tuesday, October 30

God sorts me out (Another Important post)

I have come across the True Freedom Trust. A friend in my workplace fellowship recommended them to me when I expressed my angst as regards homosexuality and the church.

This is just what I have been looking for: an organisation set up by gay Christians for gay Christians, which takes a conservative interpretation of the scripture yet also recognises that homosexuality is something you are born with, which cannot be ‘cured’ or ‘delivered’ (except in rare miraculous cases). TFT provides counselling, support, training, etc both for christian gays and for their families and churches.

I feel that at last I can tithe the mint and dill and also act mercifully and justly and help to lift the burden.

I feel that I am called to work in this field in some way in my role as a Reader, and am beginning to work up a project to make my church more gay-friendly (while remaining theologically sound of course), both in terms of its own members and in terms of evangelism. This would involve publicity and leaflets and possibly a support group within the church. Itwould also possibly involve building bridges with gay organisations outside the church using inter-faith events as a pattern. I would hope to be able to set aside for a while the things that divide us and concentrate on developing riendships and mutual respect and understanding, so that much later on when it comes to explaining our theology it isn't judged according to their pre-conceived ideas. But then again they might just lynch me as a homophobe….

I expect I will use TFT in some way.

The greatest obstacle is probably my own stubborn Vicar. My wife has approved my plan but only because she thinks it won't get past him and will therefore come to nothing.

Please pray that God will guide me and help me distinguish between a genuine calling and a flash in the pan idea, and that I will proceed with wisdom and that God will give me the diplomatic and political skills necessary...'coz I ain't got them yet..

Wednesday, October 24

"Choose your faith" chart

Look up the chart in the following link and choose your preferred religion product.


I think I'll become a Buddhist! Only kidding.

I note the Church of England does not appear on the chart - I expect it's authors are still waiting for the Lambeth Conference of 2150AD to reach a vague decision.

Monday, October 22

God sorts me out (this is an Important post)

Following a channel 4 documentary last week on the topic of medical advances which mean we now know more about foetal pain during abortions, and viability is moving constantly younger, there is an increasing sense of feeling that abortion time limits should be reduced.

I welcome his news, in a sort of “I told you so” manner.

I went on the Channel 4 website to send in my approval of the programme, and got embroiled into a massive debate (who, me?) with the baying foaming-at-the-mouth pro-choice fundamentalist feminists.

Normally when I get into this sort of thing I lose sleep fretting about it all night. This time, the programme was good and I felt I was doing well in the debate, so I slept OK. Until Sunday morning that is – after a late night when I was already desperately tired and looking forward to my first lie-in in months. I was jolted awake at 5am by a random thought about the debate. No chance of falling asleep again – give up on the lie in and go downstairs for breakfast.

But at church 6 (SIX!) hours later, God spoke to me. Not quite my ‘Samuel-in-the-temple’ moment, but approaching it. It goes like this (bear with me):

Somewhere in Macabees there is apparently a story about men returning from battle, who offer sacrifices for the dead. I am told Roman Catholics take this as justification for their doctrine of purgatory, and prayers for the dead. But it actually stems from Old Testament law and practice. The 10 Commandments say “Thou shalt not kill”, and yet God sent the Israelite army into Canaan to commit genocide. When the soldiers returned from battle, they had to offer sacrifices, not for their dead comrades, but to cover their own blood-guilt from having killed in battle. So, even though God had instructed them to kill, it was still deemed to be a breach of the law, a sin, requiring a sacrifice. So the first thread of my thoughts is that there are times when killing is the best thing to do, but it is still deemed to be sin, and still needs a sacrifice.

The second thread is that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their attitude, tithing mint and dill and cumin but neglecting the weightier matters of law such as justice, and also because the Pharisees would place the burden of the law on the people but not lift a finger to help. They were right about the tithing, but the emphasis was wrong. So, even in my most rabidly anti-abortion moments, I have been acutely aware of the needs of desperate women needing help. I have always felt that there needed to be a solution for them, based primarily in a fairer society where they would not feel the need to abort. I did not see abortion – the murder of the child – as a solution. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and all that. But I was troubled that the solution I sought was Utopian, and would never provide the relief I proposed. I felt that I was being strict on the matters of the law (ie no killing) but was unable to lift a finger to provide genuine alternative.

The third thread, though of less importance and weight, goes like this… you are enjoying a day in the park when the park keeper says “Oi, you, can’t you read? It says keep off the grass!” So there you are, 40 metres from the nearest path, with a law that says you must not walk on the grass. How do you get back to the path? Fly? No, you walk back to the path…breaking the law as you do so. Similarly if you are in a pond and the sign says ‘no swimming’ you still have to swim to the side. And if you are a drug addict, cold turkey does not work for everyone and sometimes it’s a slower path of reducing usage. So, once we are in a position of sin, sometimes we have to continue sinning even while on the way to repentance.

So God spoke to me with these things saying basically:

“Yes Simon, you are right, abortion is indeed always a sin. But sometimes it is the least sinful option, the best way forward. Sometimes you have to do it, and accept the sacrifice of my Son to cover your sin”

That was God’s word to me, and it is a pivotal moment in my life. A burden has been lifted from me. I can now keep my strict interpretation of scripture, AND help women in need, and let God sort out the contradictions and mess.

Now if there is a similar solution for the homosexuality debate……?

Tuesday, October 16

A call for a British Underground Chruch

We find in the UK that there is an increasing amount of legislation governing how we run charitable organisations, which includes the church.

This covers areas such as employment law, child protection law, health and safety, etc.

It is all good and right.

But I have misgivings.

Because, at the same time, there is an increasing amount of state interference in matters that affect our beliefs.

For example:
In the UK medical staff who believe abortion is murder are not compelled to participate directly in abortion, but they are required to refer the mother to a pro-choice doctor. This is probably a reasonable compromise, but means that the anti-abortion person is still indirectly collaborating with it, in a way which some might deem to be sinful. I don’t want to get into the abortion issue here, its just an example of the interaction of law and church.

More seriously, following the introduction of the sexual orientation regulations, Christian adoption professionals who feel that gay adoption is sinful are not permitted to refer the candidates in the way that anti-abortion doctors can. They have to process the gay adoption without ‘discriminating against gay people’, even if they feel that participating in such an adoption is a sin. I don’t want to get into the gay issue here, its just an example of the interaction of law and church.

In short, the law now compels people to do things they consider sinful. Freedom of religion has been seriously compromised.

It’s not just Christians who are affected – recently a Muslim dentist was found guilty of discrimination because he would not treat a Muslim woman patient until she put on a headscarf, because he felt he would be acting sinfully being in such close proximity to an uncovered woman. I don’t want to get into the headscarf issue here, its just an example of the interaction of law and faith.

I am not saying that the courts and legislators have made the wrong decisions in these cases, what I am saying is that well-intentioned law is increasingly incompatible with personal faith.

Employment law now means that the church cannot ‘discriminate against’ gay people in most cases – there are exceptions – so it means some churches may be acting illegally if they choose to employ a person who they feel embodies their church doctrines in favour of someone who does not embody them in the same way. I don’t want to get into the gay issue here, its just an example of the interaction of law and church.

Similarly, the church of England has been asked to adjust the way it employs clergy to bring it into line with mainstream charity employment laws.

My misgiving is that while all these examples are relatively minor and relatively debatable, they set the scene for more dangerous interventions by church and state.

Other clues are the girl who was not permitted to where her ‘silver ring thing’ at school on safety grounds, though the Hindu (?) girls were permitted their bangles, and the BA employee who got in trouble for wearing a small cross. Also the Christian Fellowship at Exeter University which is in trouble because it will only accept as voting members those who actually believe in its doctrinal position.

The most recent law is that it is illegal to incite hatred against homosexuals – and I agree entirely that this should be so, and it is reassuring to hear pro-gay organisations affirming that these laws will not be used prevent civilised discussion and the courteous expression of religions opinions.

But can you see where I am heading? None of these things are in themselves too serious, but I feel there is a raising of the temperature, a tendency for society and legislation to increasingly restrict the activities of the church.

I was wondering how we can avoid this, and one idea was to not have our churches set up as legal charities, whereby legislation applies. Instead, should they be simply groups of friends that meet or live together? But how would its ministers then be paid? Whatever gifts they receive would be deemed to be payment and then they would incur all the employment law after all. It also reminded me of the conditions that prevailed in the Soviet Union, where church ministers were deemed to be parasites on society because they don’t have a proper job.

However, I seriously think that this is the way we need to go. The world is not becoming more friendly to Christians - unless we give up our distinctive beliefs and subscribe to a vague homogenous cultural deism.

I think it was a mistake for the church to ever get involved with the state, and I think that we now need to separate. I think it was in Kyle Potter’s ‘Vindicated’ blog that I read “The accommodation between church and state is over” or words to that effect.

I think that within five years of me writing this post, Christians will be locked in British prisons because of their faith. And since society will perceive us to be the problem, Amnesty International will look the other way.

I think that a British underground church needs to be formed, or perhaps spawned from the cell groups we already have in many churches, and this underground church will be the church that carries the gospel into the next century.

But for now, I continue as a licensed reader in the state church, following all these rules as best I can, but looking around with an increasing sense of drowning panic.

Monday, October 15

A little vanity

Allow me a little vanity in the midst of my doom and gloom.

For my birthday in summer I got a new camera. Some of my piccies seemed quite good, so I submitted them to, who insist that they only want Professional Level photographers. They have accepted me as a seller on their site! Most of my pictures are in their 'good' category, and one 'outstanding'. My ego has been chortling ever since.

arthritis, conception

Only negative news on the above topics.

Together with the 'invisible woman' post below, my wife's faith is barely clinging on by its fingernails.

Shattered Faith?

I have not blogged for a while, and probably wont blog again for a while. I had to stop because it was becoming intrusive into my life and distracting me from work, etc. For this reason I regret that I have also not kept up to date with Vindicated or Elizaphanian.

Imagine a child with a complex model made of lego. He is about to show you how clever it is, all the refinements and the innovative use of specialist bricks, but he trips and drops it and it smashes into a million pieces. In a high state of stress he picks up the pieces and rebuilds the model - its basically the same but there are some bits that have changed and he can't quite work out which bits have changed and whether the model has been improved or made worse, and whether the first model was actually correct and that he sould try to get back to it, or if the new one is in fact better.

As part of my 'continuing ministerial education' required by the Chruch of England I had to attend a day-long workshop on the topic of homosexuality

I have to say that it was very well done. The leader was a remarkable lady vicar who has been involved face to face with many of the key players - she has been the guest of one of the AKURE bishops (declining an invitation to his son's second polygamous marriage while there!!), and has also met Gene Robinson. She started by giving the story of her first involvement with this topic, when while working as a nurse she had to care for a young man who had been seriously beaten up for being gay.

Ground rules for the day [try and behave towards your fellow christians as if you are a christian yourself], followed by an icebreaker. Then the first main session, breaking into groups to examine the main scriptures. Each group had one passage - perhaps not a good idea since you really need to see the whole sweep of scipture on this topic. My group got the Sodom and Gomorrah story, which we concluded had too much other stuff going on to use it as a basis for a theology of homosexuality specifically. The group that was disussing Corinthians - without any intervention from me - came to the conclusion that it's pretty clear that the passage is indeed talking about 'committed' or 'long term' relations as well as other forms of homosexuality. This despite the most pro-liberalisation person (who was a very outspoken woman) being in that group. The other person who I had down as being pro-liberalsiation based on his early contributions to the day was in the Leviticus group, and I was surprised that he too as spokesman for the group reported back a remarkably conservative view.

So far so conservative.

At lunch I found myself sitting next to the day leader, and it was here that she spoke positively about Gene Robinson, his humility and lack of self-promotion, and his overall popularity in his diocese. It was here too she told me about the African's tolerance of polygamy, and that part of their objection was that they hadn't realised homosexuality had been decriminalised and they had thought something ILLEGAL was being promoted.

In the afternoon we were aagin divided into groups and ased to look as case studies of pastoral issues - you know the kind of thing - Deaconess Sarah has been dumped by her husband but finds that Jane befriends her and the relationship becomes sexual - can she continue as deaconess? (can she lead the people of God into righteousness?) At first reading they all seems obvious, but the more you thing about thenm the harder they become. Its all very well theorising, but its hard to apply simple theory to the complexity of peoples lives. Of course in my housechurch days it would have been simple - "excommunicate the lot".

So the day seems to conclude that homosexual relationships are indeed sinful, but should still be allowed to proceed with barely a whisper against. I am very puzzled by this!

I went home feeling glad that overall the tone of the session was one that I was comfortable with, and that overall the supremacy of scripture had been upheld, and that overall the ridiculous notion - "Paul didn't know about loving committed homosexual partnerships" - was not supported.

But I found that something deep had been disturbed in me by the day - a deep sense of injustice and persecution against people born a certain way. If I wrote the Bible I would certainly have written it differently! I was standing next to my bookshelf and put my hand on the Bible. I prayed "Lord, speak to me now as I open your word". It fell open at Acts 9 - "Saul, Saul, why do you perscute me?" "Who are you Lord?" "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting"

So was God telling me that I had been persecuting him in my application of Corinthians? I have always warned people against random verse readings of this kind - "Judas went and hanged himself" .... "Go and do thou likewise"..... so that experienc on its own is not enough to change my position, but it has made me think.

I really want to be part of a church that does permit and even bless homosexual realtionships. It feels right and just. But I cannot match that with what I read in Corinthians - "Do not be decieved....arsenokoitai....will not inherit the kingdom of God." Arsenokoitai literally means man-bed [bed as in marriage bed - it's almost exactly the same language as Leviticus]. I want everyone to inherit the kingdom, so I can't encourage people into relationships that would keep them out of it. But if the meaning of the word had in fact drifted away from its original meaning - as the words gay and queer have changed meaning - then I don't want to stop people legitimately enjoying the freedom of our essentially non-legalistic faith.

I couldn't sleep that night. Normally as I am falling asleep I have what i call pre-dreams. I'm not yet asleep and not day-dreaming, it a more uncontrolled dreamlike state as I drop off. Normally I get good pre-dreams.. a colourful peakock, say, or something really whacky and strange. But that night all my pre-dreams were faces passing in front of me, all saying opposing things about homosexuality in theology and the church - never a whole sentance for me to pick up their logic, just the middle bits, random words, all kinds of voices, faces spinning ... and I would wake up again. I gave up and went dowsntairs with a cup of tea and a marmalde sandwich, and watched TV (Good interesting programmes for once) ... and as my tired head lolled around I still kept getting the same nightmarish pre-dreams and I would jerk awake again.

Please pray for me to be able to rebuild my theology of homosexuality, like that lego model i described. Shold I go for the same model again, or something similar but different, or something else altogether? What buiding blocks should I use?

I've said it before:

I don't want to condemn what is good.
I don't want to endsorse what is sin.

And, if I have been wrong all this time on Corinthians, what else am i wrong on? Resurrection? Forgiveness? The whole faith? My whole faith is very wobbly at present.

If i am to become more theologically tolerant of homosexual acts, pray for me to receive a TRUE alternative understanding of arsenokoitai that satisifies my intellectual difficulties with it, for something received by divine revelation rather than by the pursuasion of someone who is simply better at arguing than I am but not necessarily wiser or more informed, and that it will come together with reassurance about my faith, that i have not been getting not wrong all this time.

Thank you.

Invisible woman

My wife has often complained that the church ignores her or dismisses her efforts.

So this week, we have been filling in froms for our second daughter to go to the same school as her sister. Becasue this [Catholic] school is oversubscribed, we now need to get the forms signed by our Vicar and provide a copy of her certificate of baptism. So my wife approached the vIcar and asked him to do this for her, which he readily agred to do. When she went to collect the from, she foud that it was in an envelope adressed to me. Why? I had had nothing to do with the request or the administration of it, I was not involved in any way. So why did they adress it to me? My wife said to me "Am I invisible?"

This probably seems like a small and trivial thing unless you know the history of her being rejected by the church, and in fact it illustrates how much damage can be done by carelessness.