Thinking Anglicans

What should the CofE teaching document on sexuality encompass?

Updated

The LGBTI Mission has published a document, which makes suggestions for what the proposed Church of England teaching document on sexuality should cover.

The document itself can be found here, and the accompanying press release is copied below the fold.

Update

A selection of the questions in this paper is contained in a comment article in the Church TImes for 23 June, which is titled Issues that must be addressed.

Press release

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York announced in February that the Church of England needed a teaching document about sexuality to lead the church towards a radical new inclusion of LGBTI+ people in the church. This will replace Issues in Human Sexuality and associated documents which are a generation old. The archbishops wrote:

To deal with that disagreement and to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.

We need to work together – not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone – to move forward with confidence.

The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.

Leading academic theologians, scientists and other experts have written a paper identifying questions and themes which they believe the Church of England group that will write that new teaching document will need to address. Their work has been co-ordinated by Dr Andrew Davison, Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, sponsored by the LGBTI Mission and supported by the Human Sexuality Group of General Synod, OneBodyOneFaith and Inclusive Church.

The paper which can be found here is titled A Teaching Document on Sexuality and Marriage from the Bishops of the Church of England: Some Initial Suggestions as to Questions and Themes.

LGBTI Mission Chair, Simon Sarmiento said, “We are not telling the group what to write. But we are saying that if the Teaching Document is to serve the Archbishops’ purpose and have credibility in the Church of England and beyond, then it must address the questions and themes these scholars have identified”.

The Chair of the Human Sexuality Group of General Synod, Canon Giles Goddard, added, “The Teaching Document is a significant part of the Archbishops’ plan for the way forward for our church. It is vital that the Document covers the breadth and depth of the questions raised in this preparatory paper if it is to command the support of General Synod”.

Tracey Byrne, the CEO of OneBodyOneFaith, commented, “People in the Church of England, both LGBTI+ people and their friends, families and allies, are looking to our bishops and General Synod for a better way forward than the paper rejected by General Synod in February. We know this Teaching Document is coming, and we are grateful to the academics who have done this work on identifying the important and pressing matters that must be considered by those writing it.”

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Ann Reddecliffe
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Ann Reddecliffe

This is a really challenging set of questions and I applaud the level of academic scholarship that has gone into it. It will be interesting to see who the Bishops see as the primary audience for this new teaching document. Will they be aiming it to the worldwide Anglican Communion, as GS2055 seemed to be, or will they aim it for parish clergy to guide them in the pastoral situations they face? The status of the new teaching document will be important. Will it be a disciplinary document, in the same way that candidates for ordination currently must be willing… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Excellent document.

Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

Agreed. This is the most rigorous document I have seen for some time. In a sense, this document has done the Archbishops’ work for them. They will have less room for ducking and diving in the document they produce. Call me cynical, but I cannot see the official document from the H of Bs coming anywhere near the questions being posed here. There’s too much at stake – in terms of money, ecclesiology and Anglican Communion concerns. Or they will produce a good report and not publish it (Osborne all over again). It will be interesting to see who are… Read more »

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

This is excellent. I have been rather blunt with my bishop in saying that unless as a minimum the so-called Teaching Document, an unfortunately authoritarian label, makes clear that there are different interpretations of Scripture that may be legitimately held, and that the Church must repent of its manifest homophobia, then the document will go the way of GS 2055.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

I hesitate to criticise when the august voices above are so positive, but the document is hardly lacking in problems. Consider, for example, “What, for instance, does the Church of England wish to teach about sex education in schools, consent, sexual violence, marital rape, pornography, masturbation, or limits to sexual practices (not least among married heterosexual couples)? If pronouncing on matters such as sexual practices among married heterosexual couples is deemed unacceptably intrusive, how far should that also go for other couples?” Is the position, seriously, that masturbation is a problem akin to rape and sexual violence, which needs to… Read more »

Helen King
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Helen King

Interested Observer, I take that list to be an indication that any document purporting to be about human sexuality needs to engage with far more than ‘the gays’. And amen to that.

american piskie
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american piskie

Interested Observer: I took it to be code for “Well we’ve changed our mind/stood away from the biblical position/no longer subscribe to the RC position on this one, haven’t we?”

Stanley Monkhouse (Fr William)
Guest

So many good points above. Interested Observer spot-on again. What I am expecting from the bishops is (1) a list of anatomical structures which may be stimulated without incurring episcopal displeasure; (2) the frequency with which such stimulation may occur (how many times a minute — that sort of thing), and with what; (3) which orifices are out of bounds lest entry to spirits be facilitated, as Bishop Graham Dow, then of Carlisle, opined over a decade ago. I think I said something like this before, but if more rigorous standards are to be expected of clergy, then we’ll need… Read more »

steve morgan
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steve morgan

In the real world, the idea of the present House of Bishops of the C of E having anything valuable to say on the subject of human sexuality (given their recent record,) let alone issue ‘a teaching document,’ is both laughable and patronising. Who is going to listen? When have they ever listened to anyone else?

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

All the comments on this thread, both the laudatory ones higher up, and the more critical/cynical ones more recently, shine light on a real problem that the Bishops have created for themselves. They are in a no-win situation. They seem to have realised that events of the past couple of decades have rather passed them by, and in particular that previous “teaching documents” such as Issues in Sexuality (if I have the title right) have been shown to be woefully inadequate. So in an effort to restore some sort of initiative, and with quite valid attention to their traditional teaching… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
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Bernard Silverman

Perhaps they should start with a document teaching themselves a few things. Tolerance, charity, integrity, honesty, for instance.

Daniel Lamont
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Daniel Lamont

I think that this is an excellent document which raises key questions thoughtfully. I wholeheartedly agree with Edward Prebble’s comments but I do think that we need a new teaching document, if only to form part of the education of the clergy. I am not optimistic, given their past record, that the Bishops will produce an appropriate document and, given their lack of credibility, that anyone would pay attention if they did. I attended the debate on the marriage canon at the recent synod of the SEC. The contributions of both the Primus and also the Bishop of Edinburgh were… Read more »

Lavinia Nelder
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Lavinia Nelder

I would also suggest the Bishops take a good look at the syllabus for GCSE Biology. They will discover that our young people are taught how genetic variation happens spontaneously during cell replication, a possible for homosexuality, that and God may have once created man and woman, but doesn’t always do that now and so on and so forth. Most of the teaching on Human Sexuality has had its wheels fall off with advances in scientific understanding, which is now taught in schools. And then they wonder why Christianity is avoided by the younger generation. We do in my school… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“I take that list to be an indication that any document purporting to be about human sexuality needs to engage with far more than ‘the gays’.”

What’s the need to engage with masturbation? People do it. No-one is harmed. The end. How difficult was that?

american piskie
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american piskie

Interested Observer: you are the voice of reason, but influential parts of the C of E are nowhere near your starting point. Did you not ask yourself earlier this year just what all these young men were being flogged for in the evangelical boot camps?

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“”I take that list to be an indication that any document purporting to be about human sexuality needs to engage with far more than ‘the gays’.”

Yes! During Pride weekend, I saw a vehicle that had it’s windows painted “Support the gays, love is love.” There are some contexts where that would not be OK, the CoE bishops “teaching document,” for example. However, this was on a dusty old, beat up pick up truck, that screams the thought “red neck” and I believe the occupants were handsome, manly man authentic cowboys (Colorado). Yup, that’s a step forward.

Helen King
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Helen King

Interested Observer, people do a lot of things, nobody is harmed, but the C of E still gets its collective knickers in a twist. As I’m sure you know, over the history of Christendom masturbation has been seen as a sin and this has been supported from the Bible (Onan, etc). But most of us got over it. At some points in time, it was regarded as a mental illness or as a cause of mental illness. But most of us got over it. So perhaps some reflection on this history and on the theology behind it would be instructive… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Churches are beyond embarrassing when they start detailing sex acts. Take this gem from Lambeth I.10 (and this is from the unedited, so-called liberal first draft):- “Clearly some expressions of sexuality are inherently contrary to the Christian way and are sinful. Such unacceptable expression of sexuality include promiscuity, prostitution, incest, pornography, paedophilia, predatory sexual behaviour, and sadomasochism (all of which may be heterosexual and homosexual), adultery, violence against wives, and female circumcision. From a Christian perspective these forms of sexual expression remain sinful in any context. We are particularly concerned about the pressures on young people to engage in sexual… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

Although I welcome the LBGTI coalition’s excellent document the prospect of the Bishops issuing another ‘teaching document’ fills me with dread. ‘Teaching documents’ get elevated into doctrine; look at what happened with ‘Issues’, and look at the way Lambeth 98 has achieved an authority it never had. Both are used as a stick with which to beat anyone who happens to disagree. Moreover they fossilise development (perhaps they are designed to do so), the inhibit discussion a, they are given a spurious authority they cannot bear but are used as such and they stop change. ‘Teaching documents’ by their very… Read more »

crs
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crs

“Did you not ask yourself earlier this year just what all these young men were being flogged for in the evangelical boot camps?”

Or in the anglo-catholic ‘spirituality’ camps of +Peter Ball, complete with nude showers, special anointings, and bloody backsides.

Tobias Haller
Guest

The great problem is the desire to teach what they do not know.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

My favorite question is:
“To whom, and for whom, are the bishops of the Church of England most fundamentally responsible?”

Along with the follow-up:
“If there are competing claims between concerns for wider unity and concerns for local mission, how should they be judged or settled?”

This is my point about bishops’ pastoral and fiduciary duties.

These are bishops of the Church of England–a church founded on the principle that foreign prelates have no jurisdiction in England.

So the answer is obvious: Bishops should prefer mission in England over wider “unity.” Anything else would be historically unAnglican.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Along with Richard, I dread any “teaching document” from CoE bishops about many topics, but particularly LGBTQI inclusion/existence. There’s no settled theology in that group about what it means to be a Christian. Does following Jesus mean ticking off the right piety boxes to achieve salvation? A very individual approach. Or does it mean working towards a just society – justice being the public expression of love (Cornell West) and we being commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves? I’m sure there are people who embrace both. The individual box ticking group probably aren’t going to remove their boxes of… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Isn’t part of the problem – as seen in the repudiation of the Bishops’ Report in Synod – that it’s the bishops who need to be taught. Sure, that extends to all of us, but specifically the bishops ‘aren’t quite there yet’ as reflected in their repudiation. So really, prior to ‘teaching’ what is needed is ‘learning’. Hopefully the LGBTI Mission document may assist them. A primary shortfall has been a failure to adequately listen to and be taught by LGBTI people themselves and their lives and experience. This document is therefore all the more significant. The idea of any… Read more »