on 25 May 2013
This is a dishonest book.
First, the title: it is really about homosexuality. There is little about bisexuality (beyond the notion that if you can choose, then choose to be straight) and transgender.
So it is really `Issues in Homosexuality'.
Secondly, it isn't so much a guide as a rule book. The House of Bishops' document was produced as a guide to general synod but, under George Carey, it became policy. Applicants for ministry training have to sign to say that they will abide by its `teaching'.
Thirdly, it is dishonest in the way it presents its material. It is set up as if to show both points of view but it misquotes some scholars, makes false conclusions that cannot be drawn from their work and is ultimately weighted towards the `traditional' teaching.
A few examples:
At least one contributor has not checked out the secondary sources which he quotes (Hayes on Scroggs p. 137). The misquotation I refer to is that by Robin Hays of Robin Scroggs on p. 137: `Robin Scroggs has shown....' That arsenokoitai is the NT Greek equivalent of the Levitical prohibition - to me this was a `clincher' in any argument that scripture is consistent in its prohibition of homosexuality and any evangelical would probably feel the need to read no further. However, this is to quote Scroggs out of context. In pp. 109-118 of The New Testament and Homosexuality (Fortress 1983) he argues that Paul is using stock phrases from the then current Jewish propaganda against Gentiles to argue that all have sinned, whether by the standards of the Torah or by Greek thought. Scroggs concludes that Paul envisaged the Roman abuse of teenage boys in prostitution and debauchery and that it is precarious to take Romans 1 as a condemnation of committed and loving gay relationships as we now understand them. It is not an understatement to say that I was so devastated when I read this part of `Some Issues' that it dented my previously held admiration for the scholarly and even-handed approach usually shown in Anglican reports on various issues and it called into question the integrity of the whole document.
p. 135 quotes Gagnon arguing that the mouth is not a natural orifice for (homosexual) sex yet the report fails to follow up this logic by advising heterosexuals from abstaining from oral sex. Had it done so, then most people would have laughed this document `out of court'.
p. 143 asserts that `the concensus of scholarly opinion' still supports the traditional teaching. I wonder how this conclusion is arrived at. If it is by a head-count, then I expect that the majority of biblical scholars have not dwelt overmuch on this single issue. From my knowledge about some scholars, it seems to me that there is a preponderance of conservative ones quoted and no mention of more liberal ones e.g. Tom Horner or Daniel Helminiak. Philip Budd (who I have known for over thirty years) is quoted on p. 124 as arguing, in his commentary on Leviticus, that homosexuality is forbidden because it is ritually unclean but Grenz is then used to argue that it more significantly a reinforcement of the teaching of the creation narratives, despite the fact that Leviticus predates the creation narratives and that Phillip has been an expert on Leviticus for the whole of his career whereas (I think) Grenz writes and studies on more general issues.
p. 103 suggests that the writer lacks a sound knowledge of pastoral theology when he talks of `the cycle of confession, repentance, forgiveness and amendment of life.' Someone I know well spent several years in stunted spirituality because he would have anonymous sexual encounters, work up the courage to resolve not to repeat them and then go to sacramental confession to wipe the slate clean. He was unable to form a committed relationship with somebody because that would seem to mean that he was no longer `worthy' of absolution because he would no longer be `repentant'. He describes it as a graphic illustration of what Paul calls `the law of sin and death.' He was caught up in a series of anonymous encounters and was incapable of commitment for literal fear of Hell until he realised that the church can offer no `gospel' to gay men unless it turns the equation around from confession, repentance, forgiveness to one where forgiveness and acceptance come first and this is the grace which evokes a change of life. All of us, gay or straight, obey God because we know he accepts us just as we are; we no longer have to act well out of fear of retribution but we obey because He knows what is best for us.