And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. Acts 13:28 King James

It’s not often that the police find themselves called in to deal with disputes within the church. Last month, however, they were. Ben John of Christian Concern, a traditionalist ginger group, issued a 15-minute video attacking the C of E’s 2020 initiative Living in Love and Faith (Living in Love and Faith), a substantial publication whose professed aim is to make the church more welcoming to those espousing non-traditional sexuality.

His thesis was that the message of Living in Love and Faith, while well-meaning, was misguided. In his view it condoned sexual immorality and undermined Biblical teaching, and it threw doubt on the idea that a person could not in God’s sight validly change their birth gender.

It followed, he continued, that anyone who affected to do so and then “married” someone of their original gender was living in an immoral same-sex relationship, and that this was something the church should condemn as sinful.

A transgender nonconformist minister who happened to be in this position, and who had been featured in Living in Love and Faith, complained that the video made him feel excluded and unsafe. As a result, Mr John is now under a criminal police investigation for hate speech.

Whether or not you agree with Mr John, the immediate comment is obvious. It is outrageous to attempt to use the criminal law to silence him. It’s not as if he is yelling foul-mouthed insults in the street, or for that matter breaking up services or brawling in church. All he has done is produce a video on a non-mainstream website in which he argues in a cool, collected way from scripture and the Prayer Book that Living in Love and Faith is theologically wrong.

Indeed, while we obviously must await the outcome of any investigation, it is highly unlikely that on the basis of this he could be convicted of any hate crime as such. It would have to be shown that there was an intent to stir up hatred against same-sex couples, which seems pretty unlikely (though he might be convicted under the Communications Act of posting material “grossly offensive”, a vague, unpleasant and thoroughly illiberal provision already recommended for repeal by the Law Commission).

But there are more important points to make here. Living in Love and Faith was produced by the Church of England in an attempt to deal with long-standing complaints (backed by a number of bishops, notably the vociferous Paul Bayes of Liverpool) that it had traditionally been excessively hostile to non-traditional sexualities, and LGBT people in particular, and that it owed them an apology and a rapprochement. However, if one looks more closely, neither the original attacks, nor the church’s rather plodding reaction to them, are enormously convincing.

The difficulty with the attacks by LGBT Christians – which, summed up, are that the church by its insistence on no sex outside marriage, and marriage being limited to a lifelong union between one man and one woman, has excluded those who do not accept these ideals and nullified their experience – is that they are largely misguided.

True, the church has said, and at least for the moment continues to say, that sexual relationships outside traditional marriage, including all same-sex relationships, are sinful. True, also, that it expresses disapproval of them.

But at least as regards the Church of England (we say nothing of the wilder Christian outliers like the Westboro Baptist Church), that isn’t the same thing as excluding people who practise them. On the contrary: the very point of the church is that it takes everyone. It doesn’t exclude sinners, however heinous their sins.

We are, after all, all sinners; and provided he is penitent, the mass murderer or serial child abuser is as welcome to worship as the rest of us. Indeed, except in very rare cases canon law makes it clear that a priest cannot even refuse communion to an open sinner. Some exclusion.

Whatever they may say, the real difficulty with the church as regards the LGBT activists isn’t that it excludes or marginalises them. It is rather, that it refuses to adjust its doctrine to say they aren’t sinners at all; that it is unwilling to commend all relationships, sexual or otherwise, provided they embody a vague warm sense of love and commitment, and for that matter to allow those unrepentant about their sexuality to be priests.

Put another way, their real beef is that the church remains obstinately ecclesiastical and refuses to adopt the essentially secular doctrine that all relationships are OK provided they are truly consensual, and that if this is the case what people get up to in the privacy of the bedroom is no business of anyone apart from them.

To which the short answer is that, whether or not you personally believe the secular doctrine to be right, there is no reason whatever why the church should adopt it. “My kingdom,” said Jesus after all, “is not of this world;” the very point of being a Christian is the sidelining of worldly values.

You may of course disagree strongly and sincerely with this. But if you do, then it is you who should draw away from the church, not the church that should change its revelation so as to accommodate your beliefs.

What of the church’s answer? Living in Love and Faith is certainly a substantial production: the book alone weighs in at over 400 pages, with index entries on everything from “discrimination, and intersex people” to “slavery, sexual”; and there are a good many other resources beside. But what comes out of it is actually surprisingly little theology.

We have extensive coverage of issues of consent; of the difficulties faced in society by LGBT people, and of scientific developments in the field of sexuality; we have considerable emphasis placed on arguments that sexual orientation may be innate and unchangeable, and gender dysphoria at times very real.

But when it comes to what to do about this there is less substantial argument. The overall impression put forward is that Living in Love and Faith regards doctrine as less important than inclusiveness, morality than sensitivity to feelings. We are fairly constantly nudged towards the idea that if a change in rigid church doctrine might make people welcome, then perhaps we ought to water down the Christian message to a general rule acceptable to secular society that all you need is love and sympathy. It is this that gets the traditionalists’ goat, because it is essentially allowing the church to be taken over by easy-listening secular political morality. That is the essence of Ben John’s criticism.

The pity of it is that there was no reason for the church to go down this road. A more principled answer would have run as follows. First, however abhorrent you think someone else’s practices or lifestyle, you must show sympathy and decency on a personal level.

To this extent Living in Love and Faith is entirely right. But it needs to go further, and accept that, secondly, the church must make demands, including sexual demands, that society as a whole doesn’t. It must be prepared where necessary to go against deep human instincts and stick to its position. Being a church based on revelation it demands higher standards from its adherents, and integrity demands that those demands be non-negotiable.

However, there is an even more important point third point to bear in mind. We are all sinners, and there is every reason to think that there are far more serious sins than sexual ones. Selfishness, ignoring of those in serious need, and self-righteousness come to mind. The church has long had to reconcile itself with prioritising the sins that are really important, and not getting too tied up with those that are less so: sermons quite rightly spend more time on such things as the need to avoid cruelty than on the fact that a number of the congregation may be living in sin.

The real difficulty is that, like the church’s LGBT detractors, Living in Love and Faith is too much obsessed with sex. The beauty of Christianity, properly understood, is that it draws a proper balance between virtue and human frailty. A bit of balance of this kind from the Church of England, as much as from a shrill minority within it, would have done a great deal to avoid this debacle.

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41 Comments on And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. Acts 13:28 King James

  1. Dear Johnhenry.

    Charles de Laet Waldo Sibthorpe claimed that railways would not replace the turnpike which the invention of the small Internal combustion engine has proved right as passengers and goods carried on roads today vastly exceeds that carried by rail. He made no mention of the Hansom cab.

  2. Dear Harry.

    The false arguments in Johnhenry’s replies to you are typical of the black culture war waged against the English in particular and those with English forebears in the U.S. It might be more appropriate to criticise the Belgians, French, Spanish, and Germans for their past atrocities. However, the past is the past and we must judge those who represent us today and not from 200 years ago. Britain is the most accommodating country in the world for foreign newcomers but that’s not enough for the black activist whose appetite for power will never be assuaged until he has his boot on the neck of every white person so that he can pillage and ruin the country as happened in Rhodesia and is happening in South Africa. The British Empire was a force for the good of everyone whilst enriching Britain in bringing technology and civilised governance to replace indigenous tyrannical oppressors. Any colonial injustice or ‘atrocity’ was exposed and condemned by honourable people in Britain such as the Hola camp massacre in 1959. It’s ironic that black activists and their ‘woke’ useful idiots smear the English of today by ridiculous tenuous association with figures from 200 years ago for practises that were accepted and legal at that time whilst, at the same time, demand white English of today to ‘take the knee’ for a deified violent black recidivist killed by an American policeman who is charged with his murder and to stand trial. No doubt johnhenry would prefer a lynching.

    • Dear Derek,

      Always good to hear from you, and to benefit from your excellent scholarship and sound judgment.

      I’d add:

      Consider the extreme and terrible miseries placed upon the many hundreds of millions of non-Muslims by Muslims as the latter engaged in their various expansions.

      Not only the many dead but also those who remain who are subject to the most stultifying of superstitious beliefs and life-denying practices.

    • Shows how much you know, Sibthorpe (9:07 a.m.), aka Mr. Very Distant Progeny of Parlimentarian Sibthorpe, the fool who thought railways would never replace hansom cabs. George Floyd, the “black recidivist” who you say was killed by an American policeman, was not killed by anyone, as the eventual trial of Officer Derek Chauvin, winner of 3 (?) medals for courage and valor will prove, unless the prosecuting D.A.’s office gets cold feet and withdraws the murder indictment with prejudice, which they may well do.
      Georgy Porgy (RIP) died of self-induced heart failure. Nothing to do with a policeman’s knee which may not have been entirely unadjacent to Georgy’s bloody thick neck.

      • johnhenry, my sincere suggestion, expressed with continuing respect for your earnestness, your natural intellectual abilities and your emotional strengths, is that you seek to comprehend the key factors that pertain in matters which concern you.

        And that you also assess and re-assess, with urgency and with great focus, the underlying factors which cause you to consider as significant the matters that, indeed, you regard as significant.

        By such endeavours -endeavours which are necessary for all persons who seek to do good for others- one increases the probability of actually doing good.

  3. Harry @ 04:18 @ 14 December (below):
    Only so many replies are allowed on this wonderful organ, which is why I cannot reply directly to yours @ 04:18 today, concerning either my main point or the bigger picture. But I’ve just, last night, read William Faulkner’s short story Barn Burning, where he talks so much about n***ers, causing me to be alarmed at your 11 Dec 2020 @ 01:08 comment about blacks hating whites and your “white awaken!” comment. Faulkner was a drunk, but went on to win the Nobel Prize, things having nothing to do with you – either drinking or Nobels – but you reminded me of him.

    • Thank you, johnhenry, for the courtesy of your reply to my question.

      My sincere response is to suggest that you seek wider and deeper reference points than Faulkner’s when you assess my views and with which to regard the general situation that now pertains in the West, esp in the Anglosphere.

      To perceive matters in the full, and to toughen-up to deal with Reality -these functions are at the core of a flourishing and successful Life-on-Earth johnhenry.

      But obviously, many disagree with me on this matter of what is required for a life worth living, and what is required for an abundant and peaceful civic order.

    • And johnhenry:

      Scruton was and remains a majestic figure on the fields on which he engaged.

      But my view is that his pronouncements do not cover the key matters of what must be done, actually in practice, to save the West, esp the Anglosphere.

      Many observers, some not of the massive calibre as Scruton’s, describe what is wrong and bad.

      But we live in a time in which saying what must be done, to save ourselves, is suppressed.

  4. Say the obvious:

    A very large proportion of Muslims hate non-Muslims.

    A very large proportion of blacks hate whites.

    Ditto v large proportions of all sorts of non-whites -esp incl many Chinese and Laotians- hate whites.

    But all these ehaters of whites do want the benefits of the civil order and the wealth created by productive, law-abiding whites.

    But mention of these facts is fast becoming forbidden, obviously.

    White awaken!

    This is Our Lot, OK.

    No remedy is feasible, to continue to say the obvious.

      • You would prefer that the peoples of Europe do not awaken? Because I can tell you from my own brief correspondence with Sir Roger that he would not agree with us being carried sleeping to our own gene-killing. You don’t have to be some form of radical nationalist to desire the survival and continuity of your own ethnic kind. You only have to be normal.

        • Guessed: I like being white. I recall being in saunas at 4 years of age with lovely naked Ostrobothnian women; but not sure what you mean about Sir R’s views on “gene-killing” – if he had any, which I doubt. Refer me to an essay or to a book of his
          expressing an opinion similar to “White awaken!”

          • What I mean, old fruit, is that the knight in question was acutely aware of the politically-engineered cultural and civilisational declensions which are driving his English people to perdition, which fate is actually a crisis of existence which no whole, moral, and sane Englishman would think just.

            It is a mistake to suppose that the distinction between traditional conservatism and ethnic nationalism is a fissure and not a step. Insomuch as traditional conservatives speak of materialism, economism, human commodification and homogenisation and so forth so do nationalists. For the conversation between the two to expand it is only necessary for conservatives to put away the last of their mechanical assumptions about ethnic nationalists.

  5. I have been a subscriber to Salisbury Review for 6 months and have never left a comment. But I feel compelled to comment here, and I hope readers will allow me.
    I have read the comments (23 at the time of writing). I think people are overlooking what, to me, are really serious issues highlighted in the piece. Whether you side with Ben John or “Living In Faith And Love” is a debate that has gone on for millennia and will probably continue for another millennia – or perhaps it won’t. Because the issue here is the attack we are experiencing on free speech, and that should concern everyone, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew or no faith at all. It is happening in lots of spheres of life and people are unjustly losing their livelihoods if they refuse to be silenced.
    How can it be that we have made a law that if I make a public statement, and someone says that that statement made them feel excluded, I have committed a crime. And if brought before the beak how can I possibly have any defence? How can I possibly argue that someone who says that they have a feeling does not actually have that feeling? The law is a nonsense.
    Fortunately few people, as far as I know, have been prosecuted for trivial hate crime. It seems that if an allegation of a hate crime (a term that seems so vague as to be almost meaningless) is made the police have an obligation to investigate. If the police decide that no “crime” has been committed you may think that would be the end of the matter – you would be wrong. The police maintain a database of “non-crime hate incidents” and a mere allegation will see your name put on that list. And there is nothing you can do about that. If you subsequently apply to be, say, a teacher, or any job for which an enhanced police check is a requirement, it will be revealed that you were investigated for a “non-crime hate incident”. That may (I suggest will) prevent you getting that job. Is it too far-fetched to consider that this is one way the “establishment” can help ensure that our children are only exposed to the politically correct doctrines of the day?
    People do not know that this stuff is happening. You may think that I am just some conspiracy theorist nutter. If you doubt me just look into the case of Sarah Phillimore: (https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/the-police-recorded-me-as-hate/). Sarah is a barrister and posted a comment (something along the lines of) that she thought her cat was a Methodist because it left crap everywhere, and invited recipients to report her for hate against Methodists to test the police response. Someone did, and sure enough the police turned up! (The same police that could not be bothered to investigate an attempted burglary I suffered last year, despite having video evidence available, but that is another matter.)
    How have we got to this Orwellian state? I suggest that at least part of the problem is weak and ineffectual politicians passing ill-thought through legislation. Hate (real hate) in all its forms is obnoxious, and there are limits to what should be tolerated. But to classify discussion of any issues as hate because “it makes me feel excluded” is to trivialise real hate crimes. Hitler’s Germany started this way – we must never let that happen again.
    Oh, and a note for the editor. I received the email with the article on the 11th December, but comments were posted as early as the 7th. It would seem that I am a second class subscriber! I feel excluded – better report it to the police.

  6. In any case, the discussion isn’t about what homosexuality is or what causes is. It is about what you are allowed to say about it.

    • Thanks Derek. But what I really want here is bring our Human friend to an examination of his own mechanical assumptions; and that does not seem to be working.

      • GW, thing is, not all persons holding anti-empirical/anti-human-flourishing assumptions seek to have such assumptions revised to fit Reality.

        This topic is well-explored in all schools of the study of human psychology and all schools of psychotherapy.

        I say this not to deter you in your work -but simply to say what is known about such persons.

        • Understood, Harry; and of course you are right. But I am not willing to give up on any of my own people. They all deserve our best parenting efforts, albeit in some cases delivered with a firm slap on the political hand! Also, I don’t think it does the casual reader any harm to see such folk called to account, or to see that no meaningful account is forthcoming.

          • Yes GW, agreed -it is useful here to correct/attempt to correct all thinking, talking, doing that is anti-empirical and/or anti-human-flourishing.

            Others can benefit from your observations and corrections.

  7. Part of my Christian Faith is this.

    Were Jesus here today, talking to us, he’d make points along these lines:

    Steady. Steady. Important things first.

    First, save all the little children who can be saved.

    Break yer backs in efforts to halt the slaughter of the little ones -by insane refugee persons in London parks, of babies by their mothers’ boyfriends, by their mothers, by Muslims and blacks and whites too.

    Stop all the enslavement of children -if it be for sex, for manual labour, for brainwashing in marxist-inspired Big Statism and in the associated ideology of anti-self-sufficency, or for indoctrination into anti-empirical ideas that humans are changing the climate by burning fossil fuels -just stop the physical and intellectual enslavement of the little children.

    And don’t stop at the borders of the West -get out to all the World, and do what must be done.

    Now listen.

    Yes, children are best raised in heterosexual nuclear families, in which pornography and violence are not streamed into kids’ minds by TV and the internet and rap. And in which the commissars who control education and mainstream media systems do not force kids to be regendered and/or made to hate themselves because they are white, and esp white male.

    But pick yer battles.

    And then fight, expending yer lives dearly.

    That Jesus would talk along these lines -that’s part of my Christain Faith.

  8. I find homosexual acts repellent and generally avoid homosexuals because I am a normal and not remotely marxised (aka “woke”) heterosexual male. Is this against the law or is the human necessity to discriminate according to one’s non-elected and unchangeable nature still allowed?

    • You’re not normal in any accepted sense of the word in a civilised society. And the answer’s simple, if you find things repellant just stop doing them.

      • It is simply slavish to deny human nature, little one, because the hating left insists upon it. For very clear evolutionary reasons sexually whole and normal men and women avoid deeply maladaptive sexual practises and reject those who engage in them. There is NOTHING “civilised” in denying nature and pretending to be down with the boys in the bath-house. It isn’t moral. It isn’t decent. It’s just neo-Marxism.

      • Btw, diversity boy, you didn’t answer my question. Here it is again. Are men and women acting rightly when living by their natures, even when that produces contempt and derision for male and female homosexual practises and a preference for the company of other heterosexual men and women? If not, why not?

        Please don’t skip this question because it is difficult for someone as marxised as you to answer. Let’s examine your thinking. You do think, don’t you?

      • In my view homosexuality is largely biological in origin, the result of hormone dosage in the womb plus genetic factors in some cases. It is not a “sin” so much as a reproductive disability with somewhat forlorn social consequences and in some cases medical problems. There are sharp differences between lesbian and gay practices precisely because of the female and male differences. I do not like the flaunting public display of some gay behaviours such as BDSM nor the politicisation of the “community” as a battering ram against family values. As a rule I believe in freedom of speech and of association – all round. There are male homosexuals among my acquaintances and relatives, all of whom happen to be conservative in other respects, and I admire the work of e.g. Noel Coward and David Starkey. There is no doubt that the large number of gays in the entertainment world has an intimidating effect on the family values essential to the survival of a civilisation. Balance is needed, but not police persecution of religious people.

        • David, I’d say that homosexuality, male and female, and hermaphroditism are produced through errors of gene coding and/or switching. They are all forms of disability, homosexuality being a reproductive disability. Of course, the appropriate response from the reproductively whole and normal is compassion and tolerance. As with any disability, the former should be given unreservedly. But the latter should apply only in return for behavioural discretion in public in order that it is not abused (as it now is).

          The political exploitation of these most unfortunate conditions by the hating left is another matter entirely, and rests on a malignant desire to bring down the pillars of the European racial nature and existence and, thereby, European civilisation. Like the other ex-Frankfurt School examples of radical equalitarianism, it is NOT to be tolerated under any circumstances.

      • What do you mean, “not normal”? Don’t you know normality is an evil male white heteronormative invention? Your statement of call him “not normal” caused him to feel excluded and threatened and is reported to the local authorities as a potential hate crime.

        • The human norm is the same as the norm in for all organic life, namely it is dictated by Nature’s singular imperative to transmit genetic information unto the morrow. Where that transmission is practise impossible then that is outside the human norm.

          Political activists from the radical left may well hate that, but its truth is oddly unaffected. Might be something to do with the limits of neo-Marxist culture war.

  9. Opinions about homosexuality and the homosexual lifestyle (chemsex, felching, barebacking, daisy-chains, seduction of minors) shoul not be a police matter at all.

  10. Anyway he did it all wrong. He should have claimed to be a Muslim. Then, he would be celebrated as a wonderfully moderate religious leader – he didn’t call for beheading gays, did he? – and invited on all the nice talk shows.

  11. “It makes me feel unsafe and excluded.” Well, so does the “progressive” movement make anybody who isn’t some sort of “victim” feel. White males in particular. Perhaps we should outlaw it.

    Similarly, if a man proposes a date to a woman and she declines, she can always claim she felt unsafe, and he that he felt excluded. Perhaps both should be arrested.

    Ah, the hell with it, let’s go the whole hog. I will feel unsafe and excluded unless I win the lottery. I expect the money by Monday. The lottery doesn’t want to be a *bigot* or doubt my *feelings*, right?

    Since when do total wimps get to arrest people by claiming they made them feel bad?

  12. I must repudiate my last comment. The only possibility to defeat the current cultural mindset in society is for it to decay from failure as did the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and fall readily to reform. It took nearly eighty years for Communism to collapse from its contradictions to reality but big-business and commerce appears to be thriving under a rehashed brand of statism so a return to cultural Christian conservatism is unlikely unless something unforeseen happens and, by that time, Chinese communism may have engulfed us all. The danger is that consumerism has its limitations for human satisfaction and a collapse in that could open the way for a repressive religion like Islam and is why the Chinese government fears its religious minorities.

  13. There is no milage in trying to reason with an orthodoxy that has captured the law of the land. The nature to effect change in society has changed from parliamentary argument or noisy street demonstrations of the 20th century and the fight to restore freedom of thought and expression can only be gained by the method employed by the Gramsci inspired Marxists who now hold the levers of power in Britain after four decades of effort. Despite the curb on free thought and expression, the only possibility of success is to court the young with reasoned argument and for them to covertly infiltrate and eventually retake the institutions. This requires a Herculean long-term effort not only against the incumbent orthodoxy in Britain but across the western world. Unfortunately, conservative values no longer appeal to the thinking young and big business so relinquishing the fake freedoms of statism that facilitates them both is all but impossible. Although the leaders in Hungary and Poland may not share all our values, they are pushing back at the liberal-left hegemony of the E.U. and should be some encouragement for true conservatives in Britain.

    • Aiming at independent and intelligent young minds is part of the answer. Adolescents do not like being taken for a ride. Ohers like challenging orthodoxies. Some will resent being exploited by old men with destructive agendas. I well remember the Young Communist League pamphlet “The trend is communism” not long before the USSR collapsed. We need a civilised and legal version in the UK of Generation Identity. The task is not easy: hedonism and illiteracy are obstacles – but not impossible.