Thinking Anglicans

Rethinking the sex crises

Professor Sarah Coakley who is Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University, gave a lecture at the United Theological College, Sydney, Australia on 13 July 2010.

An edited version of the lecture is available in three parts:
Rethinking the sex crises in Catholicism and Anglicanism, Part 1
Rethinking the sex crises in Catholicism and Anglicanism, Part 2
Rethinking the sex crises in Catholicism and Anglicanism, Part 3

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Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

There is no sex crisis within the Catholic Church, just a crisis of sin and its correlative, disobedience. God’s revelation has been beautifully unfurled and is for all to see….

Virginity, chastity and self control.

Monogamy,

Marriage raised to a sacrament. Indissoluble, except by death.

The family

The higher calling of consecrated celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God, with the hundredfold promise.

An openness to God’s blessing of life.

By contrast the tragedy of the Anglican Communion having opened the door to contraception in 1930, has completely subverted the moral order.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Sarah Coakley’s article is thought provoking. Two quick points. (1) She touches on the issue of “counter-cultural ism.” The dilemma for Christian communities, when to take a counter cultural position and when not to do so, is a daunting question in and of itself. It gives rise to further questions about just whose culture a faithful community is called to “counter” as it were,and what is the cultural base of said counter measures? New Testament documents suggest that the “kingdom of God” preached by Jesus was counter cultural to both the “kingdom of the Herods” and the religious leadership aligned… Read more »

Adam Armstrong
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Adam Armstrong

Robert Ian Williams certainly makes no bones about what is ideal, not merely what is preferred or hope for, but what is absolute. Yet, these absolutes fail to deal with the realities of human life as God made us and the fact that they either don’t apply to many people or don’t work for many more. For example, “the family” is yet again trotted out as part of the whole picture of God’s plan or expectation. Yet, in scripture, the Old Testament has no such model of family, and with the exception of “The Holy Family” and perhaps Zacharias, Elizabeth,… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Prof Coakley’s three-part essay is most welcome, and at least we are treated to a more open mind at work on behalf of Anglican traditions, than not. Yet by the end of part three, we are still caught tragically in the fundamentalist traps which her thinking and redacting would otherwise seek to unlock for us, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. Sex expressed is sex directed, every bit as much as in any health or unhealthy celibate iteration. Or vice versa. Morally, it is difficult to get caught in the spiny thornbush branches which presume that celibacy is some innately, given, higher manifestation… Read more »

Charlotte
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Charlotte

Excellent lecture series — thank you for this. Among other things, Sarah Coakley gets Freud right, which is hard to do.

Spirit of Vatican II
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Spirit of Vatican II

Is it so unusual for a married man or woman to write an encomium of celibacy? A tour of Christian blogs might show that this is actually the norm.

Adam Armstrong
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Adam Armstrong

Pray tell, what is a “Christian” blog?

Achilles
Guest

Rod Gillis – I guess that sums up everything about Christianity, really – the dichotomy between as DH Lawrence put it, ‘The Eagle and The Dove’. I think what we may be seeing though is an increasingly conservative revolution, which is essentially cultural pessimism writ large; the left is now part of the Establishment, and so the only ground that is counter-cultural is the conservative – it happened in the Germany of the 1920s and 1930s, and it’s happening, or might happen, now. I say ‘might’, since the conservative revolutionary has no desire for the status quo ante, exactly. The… Read more »

Adam Armstrong
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Adam Armstrong

Not exactly an “eternal” vision, whatever that means. This word elevates the other words, but is itself inappropriate.

Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

Isn’t the ultimate expression of love, obedience?.Did not our Blessed Lord, say , ” if you love me you will keep my commandments.”

Byron Estes
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Byron Estes

Obedience to the two great commandments yes, but hopefully not obediance to the modern heresy of biblical literalism.

MarkBrunson
Guest

“Isn’t the ultimate expression of love, obedience?”

No.

Any number of things make one obedient so obedience is in no way incontrovertibly connected to love. Animals can be conditioned to obedience – so does that indicate love? Slaves beaten into obedience. Love?

If that is your understanding of what Christ came for, why bother being Christian?

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“By contrast the tragedy of the Anglican Communion having opened the door to contraception in 1930, has completely subverted the moral order.”

[1] That’s pretty sweeping given the history of Europe and the rest of the world since 1930: the Great depressin, WWII,the Holocaust, the dissolution of the British Empire, fall and collapse of the Iron Curtain, Viet Nam ….etc. etc. etc..

[2] If both men and women could get pregnant, there would have been no controversy about birth control

Mary O'Shaughnessy
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There are plenty of religious batterers out there who insist that their wives obey them, or else be beaten–and they call that love.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Achilles, interesting comment. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but it is engaging.How to resolve the problem of left and right, liberal and conservative? I keep coming back to a comment I heard Malcolm Boyd make a verylong time ago, during equally difficult times, which goes something like this, “There is only me and you, and what we have to do.” That, it seems to me, captures the core of the praxis of Jesus.

Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

The point Cynthia, is that the Anglican Communion was the first major denomination to give respectability to contraception. If procreation can be an optional extra, then the door is open to homosexuality etc. Which would have be unthinkable prior to 1930. It’s very interesting to read the debate that raged in the Church Times a the time. It’s sad that it is all forgotten. It would make excellent material for a doctorate. Indeed I came across Bishop Gore ( who was regarded as a modernist by some Anglo-Catholics) state that if we accept contraception, how do we answer the homosexual?

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“If procreation can be an optional extra, then the door is open to homosexuality etc”

I don’t understand the logic of this, especially what might be included in “etc.” What do you mean?

This is not a smartass question [although I admit snarkiness in #2 of my post].

Hector
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Hector

Robert Ian Williams, As an Anglo-Catholic I think that Bishop Charles Gore was a brilliant scholar and churchman (and I pretty much accept both his kenotic theory of the incarnation and the conclusions of his masterful essay on divorce, which is why I oppose the recent move by the Church of England to ordain remarried priests). He wasn’t, however, infallible, any more then the Bishop of Rome is infallible. He was wrong about some things, including about contraception. To notice the fact that changing hormone levels in the female body suppress ovulation, and to use that fact to help people… Read more »

Malcolm+
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Cynthia, the logic is fairly straightforward. If procreation is optional, then sex is about more than making babies. If sex is about maore than making babies, if sex is about emotional and physical intimacy and perhaps even enjoyment, then why not homosexuals? Which, rhetorically, was an argument against separating sex from procreation.

I am told that the addition of sex to American civil rights legislation in the 1960s was about trying to persuade northern legislators that equality for “negroes” would eventually lead to the ridiculous idea of equality for women . . . can you imagine?

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“If procreation is optional, then sex is about more than making babies” Oh dear! Pleasure may ensue! Reminds me of the old joke about Southern Baptists: Q: Why do the Southern Baptists oppose gay marriage? A: They are afraid it will encourage dancing. “I am told that the addition of sex to American civil rights legislation in the 1960s was about trying to persuade northern legislators that equality for “negroes” would eventually lead to the ridiculous idea of equality for women . . . can you imagine?” I thought the story was that those who added gender to the civil… Read more »

Malcolm+
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I think civil rights legislation was pretty much sunk in the south anyway. Those that weren’t actually afraid of civil rights for “negroes” were afraid of their voters.

But those northern legislators had all sorts of funny ideas about blacks being equal (can you imagine?). There was apparently some thought that adding sex would make those northern liberals realize what silly ideas equality and human rights really were.

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Ah yes, how we try to simplify so that we find a single, categorical way through in loving – as we hear God’s commanding call to love? Let’s ponder that lovely guide word, Obedience – capitalized for trenchant reasons? Others might like, Submission? But scripture obviously spreads outwards in its applicable vocabularies of love, not narrowing down to nice, simple, categorical pin points; nor for that matter, encouraging us all to use a pin point to pierce the unconformed plethora of human selves in society which probably in most modern global instances, surround us as Anglican believers. Inside, outside church… Read more »

David W
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David W

Drdanfee

But Jesus taught us to pray “Your will be done on earth as well as in heaven”, and this not under our own power but through the Holy Spirit. Your will be done on earth, also means in our own lives. Because His foolishness is greater than our wisdom. The Holy Spirit is sanctifying us to follow all His ways.

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“If procreation can be an optional extra, then the door is open to homosexuality etc.”

– Robert Ian Williams –

This is just one more of Robert’s bon mots that convinces me why there is no such web-site as ‘Thinking Roman Catholics’

MarkBrunson
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“The Holy Spirit is sanctifying us to follow all His ways.”

Which does not, in any way, preclude the progressive/liberal/non-RC view of sexuality from being correct. Indeed, the more you claim rigid dogma passed down as Tradition, the less apt it is to be guiding of the Holy Spirit.

“Thy Will be done” is not the same as “strict obedience.” That is mere submission to ideas given us from someone else. There is, in fact, an Arabic word for just that – Islam.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

David W

that’s what we are fervently hoping, that the Holy Spirit will be listened to and God’s will be done on earth.
We just don’t happen to agree with you about what that means.

Tobias Haller
Guest

Since procreation is not a universal consequence even of sexual relations geared to that end and with that intention, it would seem that it is “by nature” an “extra.” Consequently, the “door is open” by divine design, to sexuality not geared to procreation, if you think God is the designer. The traditional argument against birth control is based on a false premise and a non-sequitur. Then again, the whole idea that “nature” shows us what is moral (or divine) is highly questionable, especially in detail; and as noted above, adopting Jesus’ teaching about loving the other as one would be… Read more »

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