Thursday, May 22, 2008

Joel Edwards

As it is well known that I am that rare thing - a fan from within the LGBT community of Evangelical Alliance leader (as well as being a Commissioner with the UK's Equality and Human Rights Commission) Joel Edwards, I thought I'd pass comment on his latest forays into the public sphere (I might even make this a regular item).

I should make clear that I do rate him as a thinker who is capable of both depth and brevity at the same time (he gathers both very good attributes in one whereas some religious thinkers only have the one, as the Archbishop of Canterbury is very deep (probably) but can't make his thought clear to ordinary folk).

So his latest forays have been an intriguing letter on the recent Dispatches programme, In God's Name.

Joel is at pains to distance himself from Stephen Green stating:

Stephen Green, a key example given of this fundamentalist movement, is an extremist. The vast majority of Christians who watched last night would, like me, have recoiled in horror at some of the statements he made.

The kind of fundamentalism shown by Stephen is not growing in the UK. Unfortunately, the oxygen of publicity provided by the media has exaggerated his influence. What is increasing is a movement of evangelicals, which currently numbers around two million.

He also uses the following in speaking of LCF's (Lawyers Christian Fellowship)
Andrea Minichiello Williams

This is how a healthy democracy operates, and while Andrea may have been naïve and controversial in Dispatches, her actions were a legitimate and transparent part of the political process.
Talk about damning with very faint praise!

Possibly wrongly I think I have learned how to interpret Joel's statements because I think he is always saying the same thing - another thing I like about him.

It really is as Joel says important to see the diversity in evangelical thought and practice (presumably this means he is encouraging evangelicals (and LGBT activists?) to see our activist groupings as less monolithic (etym: consisting of a single stone), though not without consistency.

I must confess to a little more disappointment over his recent Thought for the Day. That's the transcript, the recording's as well as transcripts of other TFTD contributions is here and he has great reading voice so is well worth listening to if you get the chance.

I must admit feeling disappointed when he refers to Iain Duncan Smith's politically motivated actions around the 'need for a father' debate, quoting it as if it was a politically neutral group (in actual fact it was Iain Duncan Smith who moved the main 'need for a father' motion.

I was also disappointed he used Thought for The Day to wade into the debate on this issue which to my mind cuts across the BBC guidelines on impartiality.

Nonetheless I was interested by this section:

For a Bill providing loopholes by which Fatherhood becomes unnecessary seems strangely regressive. Same sex parenting is a feature in our democracy. But legislation which institutionalises the absence of fatherhood seems to me like a cultural time bomb.

It's great to see the recognition (don't blink you might miss it) of same sex parenting. The idea that law on IVF clinic treatment's is the place to tell fathers to take their responsibilities seriously is simply weird, when you think about it. Because parents, mothers, fathers, same sex, opposite sex should take their responsibilities seriously but it doesn't have to be in a heterosexual setting, does it?

I also noted this and see a little more (perhaps):

In the cacophony of voices on the subject there should be room for one more: it's the apostle Paul. "You have many teachers," he said, "but not many fathers." Fatherhood is not a biological accident or cultural misogyny.

Interesting. Interesting because Paul says 'not many fathers' - presumably you can have more than one .... Interesting also because Paul is arguing he is their (the Christians at Corinth) father, so he isn't actually addressing himself to biological fatherhood, which is the very point of same sex parenting .... where the second is ... a supportive parent? (i.e. the words the Government has put into the Bill).

And of course Paul also does describe himself (to Christians of Galatia) as their mother and we know that Jesus was raised by Joseph without being his genetic father.

Just a few thoughts. Or am I reading too much into it?

Well at the very least someone that quotes Moltmann and Tillich can't be entirely bad....


Example here of an evangelical tirade against Joel for the way he has expressed his more moderate views. I have bought the book and await its delivery from Amazon.


  1. But what did you think of In God's Name?

    Personally, I thought it was rather good.

    I hope Andrea Minichiello Williams is willing to do lots more like that :-)

  2. Yes I liked it. I thought it was well done.

    Really good to expose what LCF are all about.

    Close links with Anglican Mainstream as well.

    I was though very shocked by the coverage of the school, and of course the opportunity it gave to ask Andrea how old the earth was....


    It's interesting that Joel Edwards felt uncomfortable watching it.

  3. Anonymous9:43 pm


    just a quick comment. I watched 'In God's Name' and also found it uncomfortable viewing - and not only because of the views of the folks the programme was about. This may deserve some prize for naivete, but David Modell's method and treatment of people seemed highly questionable to me at times. I'm thinking particularly of the bit where he spoke to the guy from (I think) the Carmel Christian group in Bristol - asking him whether he was a virgin and whether he'd ever masturbated etc. I felt that was intrusive and not necessary, but also exploitative - the guy seemed unaware of how he might be held up for others' mockery (i realise i may be wrong & he could have had some awareness of this; just didn't look like it to me).

    Moreover, I don't think the film made its case that people such as Andrea Williams and Stephen Green are (a) part of a large movement and (b) growing in influence. I think the only 'successful' campaign of theirs that the programme mentioned was the one against 'Jerry Springer - the opera' - successful in inverted commas because the BBC still showed it despite the threats and protests. The fact that the film concentrated on so few people makes it a bit difficult to see where the evidence is that many are involved.

    As I say, I realise this could sound pretty naive. And I accept it's good that it brought to light what LCF and others are doing. But there was also an element in it of 'look at these freaks', it seems to me, and of David Modell trying to corner his subjects into expressing extreme views.

    Lastly, on a different note, it would be interesting to quiz David Modell a bit on his own thinking. For instance he says in his 'Sunday Telegraph' piece that "the ultimate aim [of hard-line Christians like those in the film] is a society built on their rigid belief system". But surely most campaigners have a similar aim - that society and its laws express values and beliefs they cherish. Why is it to be deemed alarming that Andrea Williams has the ear of peers and MPs, but not that pro-choice campaigners do (for example)? Again I realise this could sound daft - but am wondering if there's an unspoken assumption here that some views just shouldn't be lobbied on. Maybe it's notable that for all that David Modell showed how silly some of his subjects' beliefs could be (eg about the age of the world), he never (if I remember right) tried to engage Andrea Williams in debate about the evidence or motivation for her view on abortion. That would have taken him away from easy cheap shots about the age of the universe, but would have been more pertinent.

    Um, OK, that's probably quite enough...

    in friendship, Blair

  4. I think this is a very perceptive comment, and one for me to reflect on rather than necessarily answer.

    I think you do have a point about one of the participants being exploited and are probably right about that - the counter to that is that he was part of a public demonstration in front of Parliament and made the invitation to come to his church etc.

    Equally though he wasn't a minister or public representative and there ought maybe to have been a distinction made, especially in terms of content.

    I think this is pertinent if he un-converts in the future as of course many evangelicals do (especially where psychological stress is present) and will have been harmed by his interview being aired in this way.

    Anyway, thank you for your comment which I'll reflect on a bit more