While I was “away”, I missed the following.
- Colin Coward was forced to edit a blog post after I pointed out his claim that St Martin in the Fields conducted same-sex blessings and that Nick Holtam, now Bishop of Salisbury, knew and approved. The edited passage now reads:
They happen in many churches in the Diocese of London including St Martin in the Fields which conducts services of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Partnership (not the public blessing of lesbian and gay relationships which I had mistakenly written earlier) with the formal consent of the PCC. The Bishop of London has been informed of this practice. Fees are charged, sent to the diocese saying they are for the blessing of a civil partnership, and are banked by the diocese. [The St Martin's service is not an authorised service of the Church of England nor, strictly, a Blessing and in keeping with the pastoral guidance of Issues in Human Sexuality which encourages the Church to support faithful same-sex relationships between lay homosexual Christians].
Sources inform me that the edit took place after Colin Coward was contacted by his Diocesan who was not very happy about it. Do the math.
Just goes to show some people are interested in what I write…
- Warren Throckmorton wrote two interesting blog pieces about how some conservatives are selective with the research on sexuality that they will use.
Many of the questioners read evangelical publications and consume evangelical media. However, they don’t know anything about the brain research of Ivanka Savic in Sweden (2005, 2006, 2008) or Adam Safron and colleagues at Northwestern University (since 2005). Their knowledge of research stops at Dean Hamer or Simon Levay (both published studies in the 1990s). They know there is no gay gene but they don’t know about the significant brain, perceptual and cognitive differences reported within the past six years by various researchers around the world.
Many evangelicals believe homosexuality is due to abuse. Some will say with confidence that gays are more likely to be abused than straights but they are unaware of the actual magnitudes of difference. However, they are unaware of the 2009 study by Wilson and Widom which found no relationship between abuse and having a gay partner for men or women (men were more likely to have had at least one gay experience in their adult lives but not a recent partner). They are unaware of the 2010 work of Wells and colleagues in New Zealand that found 81.6% of gays reported no sexual abuse in their lives. Abuse is also higher among gender non-conforming children, whether gay or straight. Given that gays are more likely to be gender non-conforming in their histories, it seems likely that greater reports of abuse among gays relate in part to gender non-conformity, and have little, if anything, to do with cause of attractions for the majority of people who are same-sex attracted.
Of course, the Savic papers suffer from the simple fact that we know that repeated activity alters brain structure (and Throckmorton points that out here), so for any of this to be definitive we would need to do some analytics at birth and then do longitudinal work on life outcomes, but certainly this is better than the rubbish LeVay put out in the 90s where he made guesses about his sample’s sexual orientation which surprisingly seemed to fit his hypothesis.
- There was a superb letter in last week’s Church Times from Andrew Goddard and Glyn Harrison on issues around sexual identity and fluidity.
These data are consistent with the increasing use in everyday discourse of concepts such as “liquid”, “fluid”, or “post-label” sexualities. They support the views of commentators such as Matthew Parris, who wrote several years ago: “Sexuality is a supple as well as subtle thing, and can sometimes be influenced, even promoted; I think that in some people some drives can be discouraged and others encouraged; I think some people can choose” (The Times, 5 August 2006).
Of course, this applies only to “some people”. Among those who self-identify as “LGB”, many have only ever experienced sexual attraction to those of the same sex. But, until now, in much church discussion, the B in “LGBT” has been forgotten, or — as in Issues (5.8) — briefly referred to as a small confused group, who through counselling may be helped to “discover the truth of their personality”.
Anglicans have always taken reason and scientific evidence seriously. We urgently need to do so here if any revision of Issues is not to be out of date before it is published. Evidence continues to be confused and confusing in many areas, not least as a result of the way attractions and behaviours are measured in different studies; so caution is needed.
It is, nevertheless, now clear that we must give much greater weight to the fact that “bisexual”, “liquid”, and “post-label” are increasingly significant sexual identities. The concept of a spectrum of sexuality — something known for decades, but often ignored — reflects the complex reality of sexual attraction and behaviour, and calls into question simplistic analogies between sexual orientation and race.
The Church must welcome and support people pastorally, whatever their current sexual interests or experience. But we need to be careful before moving to reorder the Church’s historic teaching on sex and marriage to reflect the alleged “assured” results of modern science.
In their review, the bishops must reflect carefully on the uncertainties of much research in this area. In a fast-changing world, the Church risks losing a great deal if the expectations of discipleship are reconfigured to keep pace with diverse socially contingent sexual interests and evolving constructed sexual identities which we are only beginning to understand.
The complexities revealed by this research need to be understood better. Then we can explore how biblical teaching and the wisdom of tradition can guide our teaching and pastoral practice. Such a combination of scripture, tradition, and reason will not only be genuinely Anglican, but may enable the House of Bishops to offer a truly prophetic and counter-cultural witness.
“Post-label” – great term. Where did they get that from? :-)
I suspect we’ll be hearing more from Harrison and Goddard very soon.
- A conference sponsored by Core Issues (run by Mike Davidson – great guy) and Anglican Mainstream has caused a teensy stir as it has a provocative title – “The Lepers Among Us : Homosexuality and the Life of the Church”. Of course, one can take the term “leper” a number of ways and indeed I could see a revisionist group using such a title in order to push a compassion and inclusion line.
The programme actually looks rather interesting and if I was able to find the time for the day in London I would go along. Watch this space.
- This is going to be awesome.