So what's the answer to someone like Alan Craig, who was interviewed Saturday on BBC Radio 5 Live and rather held his own, and was (to secular ears at least) pretty offensive and exclusive towards Jayne Ozanne, the recent organiser of the YouGov Anglican attitudes to LGBTs survey, and married Erika and Susan? Erika and Susan would like to have been married in a Church of England church, but cannot by its rule-book.
He sounded offensive simply because he said God wants everyone to be heterosexual, with sex only within heterosexual marriage, and thus blanked out everyone who has a fulfilling relationship on any other basis. Effectively they cannot be Christian if they don't "pay the price" that Jesus charged. But in comparison he left others back in their sophistications and semi-removed arguments because he was able to be simplistic and literalist straight off the page. Jesus had said a man marries a woman and becomes one flesh for eternity. That's it; end of argument.
Just to say, back in Anglican days I was once invited to join Erika and crowd going to Leeds but declined to do so, and thus after so many years of online contact was surprised to hear that Erika had not even a residual German accent. In fact all three women sounded terribly Anglican, where you can imagine dinner parties and candles and a quick prayer at the beginning. As a northern pleb I discovered this terribly Anglican way when an agnostic and mixing with the chaplaincy briefly at the University of Essex.
The weakness of Jayne Ozanne's position is that she claims also to be evangelical but has to use 'the Jesus ethic' implied, and the supposed 'core message of the New Testament as a whole' to make her argument, but this leaves a lot in between of absent information and technique. Erika can say how damaged evangelical youth become because their individual gay discovery is rejected by people like Alan Craig, particularly in supposedly supportative fellowships that are anything but. That's an ethical argument that then needs another argument about theology and ethics. The wish to marry within Anglicanism is a disjuncture between personal biographies and the institution.
Packed into this argument, of course, is Jesus as trump card, so no one wins an argument against Jesus and Alan Craig kept quoting Jesus, or claimed to do so.
One argument against him is to state more clearly that no one claiming to be Christian is obliged to treat the Bible like the Qur'an is within Islam. Even if the Scriptures 'contain everything necessary for salvation', these can be treated with more subtle reading. The problem with this is the Rowan Williams' institutional argument, where despite all he had written previously, he discovered as Archbishop of Canterbury that the scriptures contain nothing positive regarding gay sexuality. This justified his efforts to secure an Anglican Covenant based on the institutional exclusion of gay ritual inclusion (marriage included, but much more), a Covenant which the Church of England rejected but which Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby obviously assumes was passed. (After all, this whole business that The Episcopal Church is excluded from doctrinal, ecumenical and interfaith votes as a "consequence" of inclusion is Anglican Covenant talk. Who cares what a synod votes when Anglican primates can act otherwise?)
First of all Alan Craig would be tackled on his bald statement that Jesus founded the Church. No he didn't and nor did he intend to do any such thing, not even a new synagogue. Jesus, he could be told, was a Jewish rabbi, an end-time rabbi.
Second point is that the Bible cannot be treated as reportage. The New Testament is all post-Paul and mainly in the Paul camp, and it is not reportage of Jesus but originally primary documents of the beliefs and expectations of mainly Gentile early Christians in diverse churches.
Therefore we cannot know what Jesus did actually say. However, we might assume he did say what is claimed about marriage because he will have understood and observed mosaic law.
This is where Jayne Ozanne was interesting, in that she said we now know so much more about sexuality, that it is not all male-female and she quoted the example of intersex people. She might have quoted people of one sex in body and the other in the brain. In other words: Jesus was wrong. Jesus was culturally limited.
This is the crux of it. Just as he and Paul were wrong about the last days, and the whole supernatural structure of existence, so they were wrong by being of a limited cultural world view.
So where that leads is Christianity as 'the cult of the individual', and that Jesus is followed. Alan Craig will tackle this simply: Jesus is God Incarnate and therefore, as he said, knows all about homosexuality and polygamy. He no doubt knew all about nuclear energy as well, if you asked him, given that nuclear power is rather important for the workings of the cosmos. He'd have told James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein a thing or two as well.
It is drivel, of course. Human beings are not made by God but evolved, including all its apparent gurus. We came about because some random rock out of the sky knocked out the life support for dinosaurs - a huge extinction took place. Evolution is specific and chaotic, only systematic in its interactions. And all humans go back to a single cell organism. The argument about intersex, which is scientific, clashes against readings of scriptures, which is mythology. Mythology tells us nothing other than how cultures believed and arranged themselves, and how others imagine.
In the end, Christianity comes down to a dogma of priorities: the cult of the individual guru, the priority and sufficiency of scripture, and it leaves the compromisers like Erika, Susan and Jayne in having to become ever more sophisticated in their acceptance of these two premises and yet be fully included.
My answer is thus to deny the label Christian, and clearly I am not because for me Christianity is belief in the incarnation of God in the man Jesus. I don't believe this, nor in what this implies. I don't understand the label liberal Christian either when it comes to those others using the label in Unitarian churches or Quaker meeting houses. People can call themselves what they like of course but there is no 'ethical league table' available historically at which Jesus can be placed at the top. It doesn't work like that. Also I think there is a departure between Christianity and ethics, simply because Christianity's first loyalty is to its Christian interpreted guru and the scriptures from where much but not all comes.
So I am not surprised that someone like Alan Craig can run away with it, and give full rein to his unethical offensiveness. The rules are biased in his favour. He can be challenged of course, by other Christians, but he gets away faster and clearer while they are interpreting the starting gun.
As for young people: well change and a bit of trauma is all part of being a teenager and coming to adulthood. Transition is part of learning. We come to realise that things are not quite as we thought - more abstract, less concrete, and motives are mixed. It is their task when the fellowship is stifling to leave and find a new path. They are not in cults, and people also do leave cults. It's bad but they'll get over it. If they don't seem to be able to recover then get help and not from such Christians.
Tough about the Church of England. The days of cultural support for a Church as a Church (in the Troeltsch sense) are pretty much over. The choices are (on his categories) between being a sect or mysticism. Mysticism never priorities another guru or a book. We live in interesting times, as they say.