OK- there have been enough people saying they thought this was real- or have commented as if it was real, that I better clarify: this is a FICTIONAL parable (the date at the top is NOT a misprint). I am trying to show the weakness of arguments used in current debates on sexuality in the church, by showing how they could be equally applied to other areas.
The Times 9th October 2025
A storm is brewing over the ordination of an openly promiscuous vicar in Wiltshire. The Rev Brian Arbuthnot (41) has been described by opponents as a womaniser and a serial adulterer, although he prefers the term “multi-spousal”.
“All of my relationships”, he said “have been conducted with integrity and openness. I have been faithful while each one has lasted, and have always been honest and true to who I am.”
He denies that this is learned behaviour, and gets annoyed when people suggest that he should be required in any way to curb his desires.
“I knew from an early age I was incapable of limiting my affections to one person. I’ve always had an attraction to multiple women and could never hold down a steady relationship. I thought getting married might cure me, but it just actually multiplied the guilt: I felt I wasn’t being true to myself; I was living a lie. I feel I have been given a lot of love, and have always wanted to share that as widely as possible.
“The church has a bad record, historically, when it come to sexual repression; we saw it with homosexuality, and we’re finally waking up to its affects on heterosexuals. The constant presence of sexual thoughts and multiple attractions in adult married men and women, illustrate perfectly that monogamy is unnatural.
“When I first came out about my struggles, many in the church told me there would be a quick cure. They encouraged me to claim victory over the desires and I would be healed, but that was never my experience. The feelings would return ever stronger, perhaps sparked by a website or a movie or an innocent approach by a friendly woman, and the opportunities to develop new relationships seemed to increase.”
Asked if he saw no contradiction between his lifestyle and Scripture, or the requirements of his chosen profession, Rev Arbuthnot acknowledges that there have certainly been some who have sought to confront him by using “weary old arguments and prooftexts”.
But isn’t the 7th commandment, pretty specific? Apparently not.
“It is clear” he says, “that scholars disagree with the exact meaning of the term ‘adultery’ in the original. In the context, it almost certainly refers to cavorting with pagan temple prostitutes, or any sexual act that is merely physical and not accompanied by emotion or love. It may also refer to having multiple partners simultaneously, and so says nothing about having a number of partners consecutively. Monogamy is not actually mentioned in the bible. Jesus’s words on adultery were about ‘looking lustfully’ – the objectification of women. They cannot apply to a loving relationship where at any given time that person is the sole source of one’s affections; where there is an understood exclusivity until either partner feels it is time to move on.”
Rev Arbuthnot had several consecutive partners sharing the house where he served as Curate in Sussex for four years before moving to WIltshire and all apparently moved on amicably. Parishioners tell no stories of unhappiness or bitterness. “It would be hard not to like Brian” said one. “I can believe that many of his “wives’ would have the attitude ‘Better to have shared a few months of happiness. than not to have experienced it at all.’ Besides, they all knew the score when they moved in”.
It is rumoured that in his previous career in social work one of his partners was 14 years old, but (understandibly) he is not confirming this. He did, however, go on record in 2018 calling for the abolition of an Age of Consent. “Abuse”, he said “is where coercion and exploitation or misuse of power or privilege have led to an unequal and non-consensual relationship. In such cases the courts can deal with the offender appropriately. However criminalising, say, a 30 year old who falls in love with a perfectly mature 15yr old, is a denial of a basic human right. The Age of Consent is completely arbitrary. At the moment a manipulative man could exploit an immature and vulnerable 20 year old and be free from the law, but a consenting 15yr old and 30yr old would be deemed to have committed a crime. So much for the rights of young people!”
One of Rev Arbuthnot’s staunchest supporters has come from within the church, ex-evangelical conference speaker and well-known author Rob McClarty. Speaking on radio yesterday, he said “It was easy to believe the black and white classifications and definitions of adultery I had grown up with, until my friends started coming out and confessing to these insuppressible desires for multiple relationships. They decided they didn’t want to live a lie any longer and so with a lot of heartache turned their back on the church and, with what seemed like a burden lifted off their shoulders, started to follow their heart. When that happened, I had to choose between my friends and my beliefs; between the harshness of dogma and the clarity of love. My friends won. They always do.
“It might have seemed logical to me to say ‘you are welcome in the church if you have these desires, but not if you act on them’, but to them that was tantamount to rejection. Each time they found new love, who was I to judge them, or deny them, or force them to stay in a relationship that had proved stagnant and loveless? It is just too simplistic to say that this is a choice- who has a choice when it comes to falling in love? It happens!”
On the other hand Rev David Montgomery, author of the globally renowned blog Citizenofnomeancity, believes that this latest furore to have rocked the church should really have taken no-one by surprise. “A decade ago, the debate on homosexuality showed us that arguments based solely on individual rights, human nature, desires, happiness and a very limited definition of love, will lead to an inevitable erosion of any foundation on which to build a moral framework for living. I and many others said then that the Maker knows best, and we move away from the Maker’s instructions at our peril.
“We pointed out that in terms of our desires, we have to factor in our universal fallenness; that being termed a sinner is not an insult but a reality and a term that applies to us all, regardless of orientation and that is relevant to every area of our lives, sexual and non-sexual.
“We argued that we are not animals but do have the choice of self-control; that physical sexual expression must not be elevated to the status of a god, but that there is such a thing as a humanly complete virgin; and that the Gospel is “good news” precisely because it releases us from the prison of “insuppressible desires” and offers us a new power to live. It doesn’t ‘cure us’ this side of eternity, but it does give us the option of controlling our desires rather than letting them control us.
“Sadly, few listened then and therefore the logical conclusions of an ethic based purely on human desires and perceived happiness continue to be revealed on an annual basis. Thankfully, the Christian message of forgiveness, hope, restoration and life in all its fulness is still the same, and the unmatchable invitation of Christ still stands.”
Rev Brian Arbuthnot is to be ordained next Friday in St Oswald’s-in-the-Marsh, Wiltshire.