Lessons My Mother Taught Me…Like When Best to Say Nothing

by the Revd Canon Giles Goddard, Former Chair of the General Synod’s Human Sexuality Group and member of the co-ordinating group for the Living in Love and Faith project

Giles Goddard

My mother was quite stern with me, when I was a child. She used, quite often, to say to me ; ‘Giles, if you have nothing constructive to say, it’s better not to say anything at all.’

I was reminded of that advice as I read Martin Davie’s new book, produced by the Church of England Evangelical Council, Glorify God in your body. I read it with a mounting sense of missed opportunity, and when I reached the conclusion, I was dismayed by the hubris the book seemed to demonstrate.

Much has been written about the clumsy and desperately inappropriate analogical comparison between same-sex marriage and penguins and elephants. To me, that sentence undermines the entire argument of the book. Dr Davie calls on Christians to approach with generosity and care ‘those who are same sex attracted’: and yet he uses terms which caricature and dismiss relationships of deep love, grace and fidelity. I wonder what he thought he was adding to the conversation by using such comparisons.

More profoundly, Dr Davie cites the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at the end of his book, comparing the witness of conservative evangelical Christians opposed to same sex relationships and those who transition to the witness of Bonhoeffer against the Nazis.

Bonhoeffer was a great theologian, a tremendous thinker, a wise man and a martyr. He has been an example to thousands, in desperate circumstances, who have been inspired by his profound faith to discover a deeper, wiser and more creative Christianity. To cite him in defence of the conservative evangelical stance on sexuality and gender makes me think of Lloyd Bensen’s words to Dan Quayle in the 1988 US election campaign: ‘Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.

My school reports were as stern as my mother. I was regularly told I ‘could do better.’ My disappointment in the CEECs’ book is that it, too, could do better. It is a sadly missed opportunity to engage constructively and creatively in the conversations which the Living in Love and Faith initiative is seeking to develop.

The CEEC would have done better to have used its time and resources to genuinely engage with the theology, experience and knowledge of LGBTI+ Christians and trans people and to demonstrate that it is taking seriously the Lambeth 1.10 exhortation to ‘listen to the experience of homosexual persons.’

The book is a classic example of the dangers of ‘talking about us without us’. I am glad to be part of the LLF process, however challenging and difficult it is, with the sense of engagement across theological boundaries which is emerging. I am looking forward to continued discussions, on and off the floor of General Synod next week. I am developing my understanding of the conservative position. I welcome any signs that my developing understanding is being reciprocated. I see none in Dr Davie’s book.





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12 Responses to Lessons My Mother Taught Me…Like When Best to Say Nothing

  1. Leslie says:

    Giles – A couple of things to say. “Deep love, grace and fidelity”, what about sex? It has to be about sex or it’s about nothing at all. “Deep love, grace and fidelity” is much like “Mom and Apple Pie” not an issue of dispute.
    However LGBT sex is practiced by people who are not LGBT and on the other hand sex is not practiced by some who are LGBT. It’s not about orientation but practice that disagreements abound.


  2. Leslie says:

    I mean there are some people who are heterosexual by orientation but who also practice gay or lesbian sex. On the other hand there are those who are LGBT by orientation but who do not engage in sexual practice.


    • Jayne Ozanne says:

      As readers will know, there is no such thing as “gay or lesbian sex” there is just “sex”.


      • David Alanson says:

        Jayne there is sex as God designs it, within his grace and plan and sex outside of his grace and plan. So in that sense you’re right. However, there is, the elephant in the room of sinful sex and non-sinful sex surely? Blessings.


  3. Leslie says:

    That is the difference between us. The one is design appropriate, the other is design inappropriate.


    • Jayne Ozanne says:

      I’ve posted the above comment so people can see how homophobic and ignorant certain people are about LGBT+ people and their supposed sex lives.


    • Erika Baker says:

      Design-appropriate is a very tricky concept. Intelligent design includes not just a physical match but also a psychological one. If being with someone of the opposite sex literally grosses you out, then that would not be appropriate to your design.
      The physical nuts and bolts aspect also clearly is not an issue for male and female couples, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

      Maybe the advice to give to you would be to look at people as people and don’t try to imagine what they do in bed. We don’t do it with straight couples, and you’d do best to accord gay couples the same courtesy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Leslie says:

    As you have decided to delete me I will close with what I meant by appropriate and inappropriate in sexual engagement. This isn’t the whole gamut of sexual behaviour but it will suffice for the moment – Penile penetration of a vagina is appropriate to design, penile penetration of the anus is not. I take any resistance to this argument as being unalterably blind. As Robbie Burns said, “facts are chiels that winna’ ding”


  5. Leslie says:

    Peter – Glad you accept that anal penetration does not agree with rectal design. I accept there are much more subtle issues involved but I’m not going to continue this discussion as I don’t think disrespect and name calling (not by you) will advance any “middle way” on such an important issue about people and their lives.


  6. How can it be ‘just love’ to not tell people the truth about their behaviours? Active homosexuality or fulfilling same sex attraction is forbidden. It is sinfulness. That’s not to say we should reject same sex attracted folk, no we welcome them into our churches. But it is not love to foster sin. I recommend the amazing ‘Living Out’ website. It is true to Scripture and challenges the lies that we stay as we are and indulge our lusts. Wrong direction folks.



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