Cambridge college chaplains have a long and honourable history of using their position to make principled gestures on matters they feel strongly about. An example of precisely this, albeit in a thoroughly misguided cause, occurred a couple of weeks ago.

In common with a number of other radical Christians, the chaplains of King’s, Trinity and St John’s believed that LGBT people had had a raw deal from the church and from Christianity generally. The Rev Andrew Hammond of King’s, for one, left no doubt where he stood on these matters. He thought the entire teaching of the church on gender was wrong; while admitting that some theologically conservative students had questioned his views, he said their opinions could ‘give you the heeby-jeebies’.

The chaplains decided to make up for this with a series of unorthodox LGBT-oriented services. Mr Hammond, for example, put on an event in the King’s College chapel with the congregation sitting on rugs on the floor and listening to hip relaxing music, in order (he said) to ‘break with tradition’. John’s similarly ran a ‘relaxed and informal Eucharistic service’ to provide a ‘safe sacred space accompanied by ‘poetry, music, video clips and/or silence’.

No one for a moment doubts the utter good faith of everyone involved in this gesture. A moment’s thought, however, suggests that, just like much of the unthinking practice of the clergy today, it was futile, foolish and misconceived.

For one thing, as regards the style of the services, we’ve been here before. In the 1960s clerics fondly assumed that the young would flock to religion that spoke their argot and aped their mannerisms (indeed Hugh Montefiore, then a Caius don and a future radical Bishop of Birmingham, was a prime mover). Pews and preaching out, beanbags and banjos in, and all would be OK. This didn’t work then and it won’t work today, for the very simple reason that it is both transparently patronising and obviously counterproductive. Young people aren’t that gullible, and you don’t attract recruits by imitating what others do, only doing it worse.

But that is a side issue. There are more serious points here. Mr Hammond solemnly argued that the problem was one of ‘acceptance’. LGBT people had failed to achieve acceptance within the church; and he added, sententiously, the soundbite that ‘it’s the quality of the love that matters between people, not the gender of the lovers’. Even accepting his views on Christian sexuality, this is hard to swallow. The church, or at least the Anglican church, has never failed to accept LGBT people. It disapproves of certain things they do, but that is different. It no more rejects them than it rejects thieves, murderers and adulterers despite its disapproval of their sins. All are, and always have been, made welcome as the objects of God’s love (and indeed under the Prayer Book they cannot be excluded from worship or denied communion without the express permission of the bishop). As for the soundbite, it trips nicely off the tongue, but it is actually plain misleading. The church has never frowned on love between people of the same gender: indeed it encourages and requires it. It does not approve of sex between them, any more than it condones any sex outside marriage. But that is not the same thing at all. Conflating the two and assuming that love must mean sexual love, as Mr Hammond seems to do, serves only to obfuscate an otherwise simple issue.

Another difficulty with this whole event, and indeed with all events of this kind, is their tendency to cause disproportion. The church’s stance on sexual orientation is important, but it is not that important. Most of the time, in religion and in life generally, we have more important fish to fry than issues of sexuality. Thus, at least outside the lunatic fringes of intersectionality theory, sensible people talk not of LGBT Christians but of Christians who happen to be (among all sorts of other things) LGBT. Like the rest of us who are all sinners in one way or another, they are, and should be, welcome at all acts of worship. The church is an open church and welcomes all sorts into its doors. Unfortunately what has happened in Cambridge encourages exactly the opposite approach: it promotes not unity but a segregation of worshippers. Moreover, this is a segregation not for any possibly rational reason such as belief or churchmanship, but on the fundamentally trivial criterion of sexual orientation. It cannot be defended.

Lastly, it is worth pondering a little further on the ecclesiastical ‘inclusiveness’ which this exercise aimed to further. If the church has never in fact excluded LGBT people, what does this mean? The answer isn’t difficult to see: it comes essentially from the political idea of equality. Not the equality we all share before God as being made in his image, but the much more doctrinaire equality promoted by secular legislation which insists on equal treatment independently of characteristics such as race, religion – and sexual orientation. It is hard to resist the inference that what we have here is an assumption that secular and religious political theory ought to coincide, if necessary by the church taking on wholesale the secular equality agenda. To which perhaps the best answer is in John 18:36 – ‘My kingdom is not of this world’. This was originally said by Christ to explain non-resistance to the state. It applies equally to foolish attempts by the church to import the values of that state and use them where they have no place.


  1. Well written Andrew.

    You wrote:
    “……Not the equality we all share before God as being made in his image, but the much more doctrinaire equality promoted by secular legislation which insists on equal treatment independently of characteristics such as race, religion – and sexual orientation. ….”
    ….. Only the legislation form of equality isn’t equality it is instead the realisation of Orwell’s words that we are all equal it’s just that some are more equal than others!

    • If we had obeyed Gods commandment to love our neighbour as we love ourselves there would never have been a need for any extra legislation.

  2. Well I remember sixty five years ago singing –
    “Don we now our gay apparel.”
    So it must be so.

  3. “No one for a moment doubts the utter good faith of everyone involved in this gesture.”

    At least one person doubts it – I do.

    • Uncharitable. Cambridge college clergy are very often fearfully intelligent in some ways, but holy fools in others.

      • I think in this case they are being fearfully intelligent – and fearful is the correct description. They are either fearful for their jobs should they dare to be as holy as they ought; or fearful to the rest of us because they are neither holy nor foolish.

        • All clergy should be fearful of their jobs. Our understanding of the world has moved on from the dark ages and we don’t need to employ people to tell us fairy stories about imaginary entities.

          Unless you are the sort of person who deep down loves subservience and being ordered around and in servitude to someone else. In that case, religion would be very appealing.

          • Most people appear to love being subservient – they do not actually believe in themselves however much the government tells them to do so – that’s why most people are religious. But being religious doesn’t necessarily equate to knowing the truth and being made free.

          • I don’t believe the government tells us to believe in ourselves at all, it’s up to us as individuals to do that. Indeed a left wing government I’m sure would like us to believe in the government.
            I feel no need to be dutiful and subservient, so I don’t go to church every Sunday and have someone who doesn’t have a wife, kids or a mortgage stand there and tell me how he thinks an invisible bit of ether says I should live my life.

          • 1st sentence -you clearly have no idea of the central message of PSHE lessons and school in general.
            2nd sentence- agree – that’s why they push the self-belief, knowing that it will fail and belief in the state will follow.
            3rd sentence – you are subservient to yourself. I am not RC so believe clergy should be free to have a wife and children. I am not CofE, so only listen to ministers who are self-supporting. I read the Bible to see how I should live my life and don’t need anyone to tell me what to do.

          • >>”I read the Bible to see how I should live my life and don’t need anyone to tell me what to do”
            Well, obviously you need the bible to tell you what to do.
            Come back to the keyboard when you’ve thought it through enough not to contradict yourself in the same sentence.

          • It’s several people. Some of them had voices in their head telling them messages from an invisible power. Nowadays we lock them up in mental homes where they belong.

          • No we don’t – we tell them that everybody has mental health problems, that it is quite normal, and that they are more than equal under the Equality Act and that they must be prioritised for employment and education.

            The continued existence of both the Bible and the Jews, despite the most determined attempts to exterminate both, should give you pause for thought.

          • The continued existence of the Bible is explained by the continued number of gullible people who like the idea of subservience.

          • …or who dislike the idea of subservience to themselves or to the state.

            What you are saying is that there have been generations upon generations of really gullible people, many of them far more intelligent and profound than anyone alive today.

          • “What you are saying is that there have been generations upon generations of really gullible people”
            “many of them far more intelligent”
            No, not really that intelligent if they can’t spot an obvious fairy story.

          • If you cannot see that, in general, people are more intelligent now than they were in the unscientific dark ages of witchcraft, that proves the point and there’s no point me wasting any more energy arguing with an idiot.

          • You go to Islam for subservience as the word means “submission”. Jesus says “the truth will set you free”, in Christ we become sons and heirs not servants.

          • You desperately want to believe, I get that.
            People falling from high buildings often want to believe that gravity won’t work, but desperately wanting to believe in something is not enough to make it true.

          • I am not desperate to believe. I do believe. 30 years ago I said “yes, I believe Lord” and I experienced His presence and He is with me always ever since. This has been the experience of believers for over 2000 years and many have died for this. You don’t refuse to convert and are murdered for a figment of your imagination. The Coptic Christian men on a beach in Libya a year ago refused to convert to Islam and died with the words “Jesus is Lord” on their lips – they are now with Him.

          • Loads of people in loony religious cults die for their beliefs. Look up “Jonestown”, “Solar Temple” and “Heavens Gate”. It doesn’t prove there is a god, it just proves there are plenty of loony easily-led gullible people.

          • There is more wisdom in the bible than in all the legislation ever produced by man, which is after all only necessary because we are so prone to breaking ten simple commandments.

          • There is more confusion and contradiction in the bible than an average Beano comic and less use as an instruction how to live your life. If you believe in taking it literally, I take it you keep slaves and have sold your daughter as a prostitute, no ?

          • What has a minister of religion told you that so offends?
            Love your neighbour as you love yourself, heck it’s just a shortened version of the Communist manifesto, and if we all did love our neighbour as we loved ourselves there would be no poverty or crime.
            But as the adage goes, if if’s and and’s were pots and pans the world would be full of tinkers.

          • I can’t produce figures but I’d bet most people aren’t ‘religious.’
            First we should define what religious means.

          • Most people – at least in white British communities are probably not religious at all. And hey ! Guess what ! There’s no rampant death and murder ! Of course, you are always going to get a few criminals in any society but that doesn’t take away the fact that the other 99% are capable of living decently perfectly well thank you.
            Now, terrorism in Britain today. Would that be mainly caused by (a) religious people or (b) non-religious people?

          • “Now, terrorism in Britain today. Would that be mainly caused by (a) religious people or (b) non-religious people?”

            It’s (c) money.

          • Any servitude to God is voluntary in my beliefs, it’s the way of salvation.
            There are others who would behave differently but there again there is no such thing as a forced conversion just forced compliance. You may hold a knife to my wife’s throat and threaten to kill her if I don’t say the world is flat and I will say it to save her life, but I most certainly will never believe it.

          • Well, if The Colonel Blimp would like to have other topics, I’ll join in the conversation on those. Oh hang on, outside of gay/transgender people, the BBC, repetitive posts about brexit, fawning over Donald Trump, leftie school teachers, muslims, loony feminists and things the clergy did wrong there aren’t really any other topics.
            Tell you what, out of the 8 things that I’ve just mentioned above, lets see how many of them come up tomorrow. Again. And again.

  4. Another groundhog LGBT/Transgender day again I see.
    In a minute or so just to break things up there’ll be an article moaning about the BBC licence, a fawning article over Donald Trump who isn’t even our leader, an article about Brexit which will be well meaning but will say the same things as it has done 50 times already this year, and maybe a whine about the Archbishop of Canterbury.
    This site used to be superb, but it is going down the tubes fast.

    • This is only incidentally about LGBT issues. The important issue it raises is about foolish clergy and secular values taking over the church.

      • The first word of the title of this article is “Gays”
        Does that give a clue to your thick brain as to why your use of the word “incidentally” is wrong.

        • The first word of the headline is Gays. Headlines are often supplied by the website owner not the author. In any case the article content is more important than the heading.

          • “Article content” You mean the fact that the content of the article has LGBT in it at least 7 times and you still think it’s incidental.
            Your professorship is clearly in terminal stupidity, take some time off, you thick bladder.

    • Bik, I haven’t seen you on the going-postal site. Maybe it would better fufil your needs. I have learned about baking, politics, model railways, the RAF in pre-war Iraq, infinite, continued fractions, Organs,driving etc, etc.
      The old horses for courses scenario.

      • I doubt you have learned anything about any of the above that 10 minutes using other sources could not have taught you better.

    • Going down the tubes in your opinion, although it is getting more hits and posts so some people like it like this.

  5. “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick…..I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” Matthew 9 vv 12, 13

    • The so-called gospel of “Matthew” was written by some anonymous bloke(s) 80 years or so after Jesus was allegedly born, was copied heavily from “Mark” and had the name “Matthew” tagged onto it about a couple of hundred years later.
      Not exactly someone who knew Jesus personally then.

      • No reason at all why somebody still around in approx. 80AD shouldn’t have known Jesus of Nazareth, or known of Him by first hand accounts narrated by those who did and could remember the crucifixion fifty years earlier.

        Meanwhile, you in 2017AD think you know exactly how some writing was produced, and by whom, more than 1900 years ago. How do you know that? Voices in your head, or just gullible?

      • Dear Bik

        The word you are struggling for is “allegedly” because there are still a good number of scholars that suggest that Matthew was written before Mark and Mark may have copied some of Matthew.

        The name “Matthew” was not tagged on to it later as some Christians, earlier than your suggestion, had copies of the gospel.

        The gospels, including Matthew, were written down about 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion (i.e. between 60 AD and 80 AD) because the generation of first-hand witnesses of the events were dying out in a culture where words were transmitted very very accurately by mouth – something we just don’t do now.

        John’s gospel is the most interesting as there is now clear carbon dating of papyrii proving it is probably actually an eye-witness account independent of the three synoptic gospels.

        …… Oh – and there weren’t just 4 gospels either, there were more (see “The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings” by Bart Ehrman)

          • Start with the source I already gave you and look at the section titled “Canons of the New Testament” and you want the penultimate big paragraph about Matthew’s gospel – that source at least doesn’t take sides in the debate.
            Then look at sources like Taylor Marshall. Even Eusebius and Origen, late roman writers, talk about Matthew before Mark. Tertullian [160-225 AD] writes that John and Matthew are the first gospels.

            The idea that Mark comes first IS the majority view but it is by no means the only view.
            As the Boston university book says on the dating of the gospels: “Although some scholars disagree, the vast majority of researchers believe that Mark was the first Gospel to be written, sometime around the year 70.” Note the bit “Although some scholars disagree….”

          • Now Bik

            You are showing your colours as a believer (or at least a man of faith) and a gambler……

            A bit of a risk to gamble without studying what you are betting on.

          • I could turn the argument round and ask if you have studied the Koran in depth.
            If not, a bit of a risk to gamble following Christianity just because your parents did without studying all the other possible alternatives.

          • All true and very logical, except for the fact that I didn’t chose God, he chose me.

            The had an intervention by God, my wife had a different one. I am not sure that one can believe without direct intervention.

            That is why nominal Cof E for the most part do not work and wish washy Christian Assembies in schools have no effect.

          • Unfortunately, I’ve never had any kind of intervention at all. For me – and this is going to sound facetious but I don’t mean it to be, so apologies – it’s very similar to my (non) belief in ghosts. When I see one then I’ll be more convinced.
            In any case, even if God chose you, there are so many “flavours” of God – the Christian one, the Muslim one, the Sikh one .. all with conflicting ideas about how to live your life. Surely you chose the “flavour” of Christianity yourself – how do you know it’s the right one?

          • The Christian one does not tell you how to live your life.

            Btw, I never had any intervention either until one day mid afternoon.

            Before that afternoon, I had never even read a single chapter of the Bible…..

  6. “It does not approve of sex between them, any more than it condones any sex outside marriage.” Yes on a very prosaic level I think is the main irritation. It seems sex as sport is fine and dandy if its with the same sex. As you say the Church should just come clean and say free love is now the Gospel.

    • In fairness, I’ve never had a problem with sex outside marriage provided it is done responsibly with contraception between two consensual people not in other relationships; it does not cause hurt to anybody else, so I don’t see a problem.

    • Free love is NOT the gospel and never has been and still isn’t now because the NT greek for word for love is really not, and never has been, and never will be Eros.

  7. Once we accepted that it was impossible to describe sexual normality – there being an infinite number of ways for men and women to have sex together – we were obliged to accept, at least outwardly, that homosexuality was not abnormal and never had been. It was simply a different way for men and women to have sex according to their natural inclinations. It followed that it was then impossible to deny gays and lesbians the same rights as heterosexuals and we legalised gay marriage and adoption. Then it became impossible to deny that there were still other forms of sexual difference which are none the less legitimate because a majority among us are disgusted or frightened by them. There’s a case for making necrophilia illegal and placing children off-limits but it’s perverse to resist allowing men to dress as women in every day life simply because it offends our indefensible historic concept of normality. All of our difficulties arise from the fact that although we say that we accept homosexuals as the equals of heterosexual, it’s often a pretence. In our hearts we don’t really; we still think they’re abnormal and we think many of the other different kinds of sexual preference are even more abnormal. The truth lurks in what-if questions such as can we have a lesbian archbishop of Canterbury or a transgendered prime minister to which the implicit answer is, er, no thanks. (The former at least is not inconceivable at some point.) This confusion drives the apparent aggression of LGBT people in demanding genuine acceptance of sexual difference in all its forms, some of which so-called “normal” people have yet to discover. They won’t stop pursuing us with demands to bake them cakes and other sillinesses until we start baking them cakes in the same way that we do for heterosexuals. The real aggressors in the sex culture wars are not those seeking rights but those of us who resist granting them despite being unable to define the normality we so treasure. The Rev. Hammond is right and the church cannot logically refuse to accept sexual difference any more than the state.

    • I have little problems with gay or lesbian people, as one set never sexually harassed me, handsome devil that I was back then, and the other accepted that I wasn’t interested in their Gay way.
      It’s about the desire to please God. Homosexual acts do not please him and neither does adultery and many other things yet we should try with the help of the holy spirit to turn our backs on the devil and avoid sinning in order to please God, and admittedly some will have a bigger struggle than others to do so.
      What I see is the Church of England attempting to eradicate the sin of the homosexual sex act not by helping the sinner come to realise that it is better to abstain than inherit hell, but to strike the sin off God’s statute books. That isn’t love, it is condemning them to hell as it allows them to follow a path that isn’t Gods.

      • Wars going on in the world, children dying in cancer wards up and down the country. God is supposed to care about these things but instead he is more worried about what two people of the same sex do in the privacy of their own bedroom. Okaaaaaaaay.

        • No Bik Byro – it’s the other way around.
          The Rev Hammond wants to make a loud media statement about “….what two people of the same sex do in the privacy of their own bedroom….” when the rest of us real Christians really want to just get on with being rightly concerned about “….Wars going on in the world, children dying in cancer wards up and down the country.” because that is what God supports Christians doing.

          Now remind me what Rev Hammond and his ilk have done?

          • I couldn’t care less what Rev Hammond and his ilk have done. What I care about is children dying of cancer. God is supposed to be all powerful and all caring, but he doesn’t do jack all.
            So it’s up to me to do things and give instead. Which I do on a regular basis.
            And then you get jerks on this site that have told me that because I don’t go to church, I have no sense of morals or decency.

          • I am sorry to hear that and I get your point if God exists and is all powerful, why does he ignore evil and suffering?

            Either he is all powerful but chooses to do nothing or he is not all powerful

            Have you seen the film “Stepford Wives”? I think he could have made us like that but he realised as the men eventually do in the film, that anything other than free will is pretty meaningless.

            Our Government could do with remembering that occasionally

          • Thanks for your reply; your first couple of sentences sum up my feelings exactly.
            I find it hard to understand people who pray for a loved one to get better – if God is listening and can intervene, why has he not done so already?
            We then have the choice between trying to come up with a complicated reason to explain it, or, in my view the much more simple explanation being that he either doesn’t exist or is not as powerful/caring as we have made him out to be.
            If he does exist, then it also seems to me that he has a strange set of priorities: with illness and wars and destruction going on in the world he seems to place a disproportionate amount of worry on trivial issues like whether or not a Jewish man has chopped the end of his private parts off. And I haven’t got room in this textbox to explain my feelings about how a large reason we face Islamic terrorism today is due to “My god is right and yours is wrong”
            Unlike some commentators here would have you believe, a sceptical faith doesn’t lead to anarchy; actually it can be quite liberating as you realise that if you want good things to happen and the world to be a happy place then it’s up to you personally to get up, take responsibility and do something about it. And I say this as a lifelong Conservative voter; I love “small government”. Maybe that’s why I also like “small Church” too.

  8. Another stories about a filthy disgusting unnatural deviance that people are mean to see as a badge of honour…..

    • The Abdication Crisis was perhaps the most notable outing for the very hard line that male homosexual clergy, on both sides of the Tiber, characteristically take on the subject of divorce, and most especially of divorced women. Cosmo Gordon Lang and his circle were victorious, because, detached from the Magisterium, they had to fight. Evangelicals are usually, although not always, a little easier-going on divorce, perhaps because they tend to be the marrying kind themselves. But they might usefully employ their current ascendancy in the Church of England to ensure that its parishes no longer sponsored those who allowed adolescent male genitals in the showers at the Girl Guides. Girlguiding UK, indeed.

  9. “…the Anglican church …disapproves of certain things they do…”
    I wonder whether that is true any longer, except for the unheard rank and file, and certain distinct groups.

  10. Yes, gays have always been welcome, not only in the C of E but in all Christian churches, always provided that:

    (1) they hid in the closet and didn’t let it be known that they were gay, pretending instead to be heterosexual or, failing that, asexual;

    (2) if their sexuality was unfortunately somehow discovered or guessed, they made it plain that they took a negative view of it, regarding it as some kind of embarrassing illness, defect or disability;

    (3) they accepted that being homosexual made them less worthy than “proper” people and didn’t get the idea into their heads that had the same right as everyone else to lead their lives with dignity and self-respect;

    (4) they didn’t – most heinous of all – go and start forming sexual relationships congruent with their natural sexuality.

    I agree 100% with what Professor Tettenborn says about “trendy” services with beanbags and banjos etc. They are pointless gimmicks and are neither an appropriate nor an effective way of making it clear that such an obscurantist attitude to us is – in the C of E at least – now finally (and thankfully) on its way out.

    • You miss the point entirely. Welcoming someone in to the family of God doesn’t mean not condemning what they do. If churches excluded those they considered guilty of sin they would be empty all the time.

      • They would indeed, but you miss the point entirely. Being gay is not being guilty of sin, nor is being in a gay relationship, and so condemnation is misdirected.

        • So you say. Not all would agree. My point is that, assuming for the sake of argument, gay sex is sinful, that is still not a reason to exclude someone from church. If it isn’t the point doesn’t arise.

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