Guest editorial by Savitri Hensman
from Modern Believing Vol 55:2
A Church of England working party has recommended that clergy be free to hold services for same-sex couples in committed relationships.
The report of the House of Bishops Working Group on human sexuality, chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling, notes theological arguments both for and against celebrating same-sex partnerships, urges that the church be welcoming towards gay and lesbian people and calls for a two-year consultation on the proposals.
The report is cautious in its approach and has disappointed some of those seeking full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans church members. Indeed gender identity and bisexuality are only fleetingly discussed, along with the experience of people who are intersex. Nevertheless the Pilling report does signal greater openness on sexuality and gender, and has been strongly criticised by groups which insist that physically intimate partnerships between couples of the same sex are always wrong, whatever qualities of love and faithfulness such relationships may reflect.
In many other churches too, Anglican and otherwise, similar discussions have been taking place. They have sometimes been accompanied by movement in wider society towards marriage equality. Meanwhile in other parts of the world, hostility to LGBT people has intensified and criminal penalties are in place. Shifting attitudes to gender-roles in church and society form part of the backdrop to sometimes heated debate on sexuality and gender identity.
This issue of Modern Believing focuses on same-sex partnerships and marriage, while addressing wider questions about the circumstances in which sexual relationships can be emotionally and spiritually beneficial. It is hoped that it will be of wide interest, and that the articles will stimulate thought and discussion even among readers who do not agree with all the conclusions.
In the opening paper, I offer an overview of how thinking about same-sex partnerships and marriage in the Church of England and other churches has developed over the past century, within a wider social context.
Eugene F Rogers examines relevant biblical passages and the concept of marriage as an ascetic practice for same-sex and well as opposite-sex couples, through which ‘life with another can prepare us for life in Trinity’.
The current state of scientific knowledge about sexual orientation is summarised by David G Myers.
The late Kenneth Ingram was one of the first Anglican theologians to argue for a consistent approach to opposite-sex and same-sex partnerships, and his writings on Christianity and sexual ethics seventy years ago are revisited.
Charlotte Methuen’s examination of the history of Christian thinking about marriage points out that it has not been a static institution and examines the implications of extending the definition to include same-sex couples. Love can be a ‘many gendered thing’, suggests Christina Beardsley, looking at the realities of transsexual and transgender people’s lives and questioning inflexible concepts of differences between men and women.