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by Susannah Cornwall, Elaine Graham, Adrian Thatcher, March 2012

Modern Church has submitted the following statement to the Sexuality Working Group  chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling to advise the House of Bishops on the Church of England's  approach to human sexuality:

"Modern Church affirms the goodness and legitimacy of all loving and committed human relationships, and believes the Church should be inclusive of straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer Christians, whether single or partnered, within the life of the Church. Modern Church affirms the necessity of faithful but open interpretation of the Bible, balanced with the experiences of Christians today and throughout history, and critical dialogue with the best of contemporary insights into human behaviour from other disciplines such as biology, psychology, anthropology and sociology.

Modern Church is dismayed that the composition of the House of Bishops’ consultation group on human sexuality is all-male, but welcomes the working party’s readiness to expand the consultation to include other perspectives. It hopes that the working party will continue the good practice demonstrated by the civil partnerships working group by inviting submissions from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. Modern Church believes that the group should proactively seek to canvass the views of a range of diverse interest groups and experiences, in a spirit of listening and dialogue.

In particular, Modern Church encourages the working party to engage with biblical criticism which acknowledges the nuances of the biblical texts used in the homosexuality debate and the fluidity of human sexuality in the scriptural witness. Indeed, Modern Church is concerned that the terms of reference of the group may be too narrow. It believes the theological basis of the 2003 report Some Issues in Human Sexuality was inadequate, and hopes the group will consult the broader biblical, historical, theological, and social-scientific material available to it. Modern Church welcomes the increase of robust theological scholarship in the area  of human sex, gender, sexuality before and since 2003, and exhorts the working party to engage with work which acknowledges the diversity of human sexuality and the integrity of a range of lifestyles."

Suggested Further Reading

  • Cheng, Patrick S. (2011), Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology,  New York, NY: Seabury Books.
  • Cornwall, Susannah (2010), Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ: Intersex Conditions and Christian Theology, London: Ashgate.
  • Countryman, L. William (2007), Dirt, Greed and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament  and their Implications for Today (Second Edition), Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press
  • Farley, Margaret A. (2006), Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,  New York, NY: Continuum.
  • Guest, Deryn, Robert Goss, Mona West and Thomas Bohache (eds.) (2006),  The Queer Bible Commentary, London: SCM Press.
  • Ind, Jo (2003), Memories of Bliss: God, Sex and Us, London: SCM Press.
  • Jordan, Mark D. (ed.) (2006), Authorizing Marriage? Canon, Tradition, and Critique in the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Kamitsuka, Margaret D. (ed.) (2010a), The Embrace of Eros: Bodies, Desires, and Sexuality in Christianity, Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
  • Loader, William (2010), Sexuality in the New Testament: Understanding the Key Texts,  London: SPCK.
  • Martin, Dale B. (2006), Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation,  Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  • Thatcher, Adrian (2011), God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Susannah Cornwall is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Lincoln Theological Institute, Manchester University.
Elaine Graham is Grosvenor Research Professor of Practical Theology at the University of Chester  and a Modern Church Vice-President.
Adrian Thatcher is Visiting Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.