Every one of us – lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight, married or single, partnered or divorced, lay or ordained – can be a resource in the process of helping the church become more conscious of the experience of, and issues affecting, human sexuality.
What practical action can we take?
- Gossip about sexuality – not just LGBTI sexuality, but sexuality in general – to members of your congregation, your vicar or curate, bishop, deanery or diocesan synod member. Most of us think about sex and intimacy and the erotic. Most of us have anxieties and fears about our desires, fantasies and longings, and perhaps about our past. We think we are different or unusual, and that people will judge our thoughts if we share them. Giving people the opportunity to talk about their own experience or hear the honest thoughts of a friend can open windows in the mind and release emotional anxieties.
PCCs, Deanery and Diocesan Synods
- Find out whether your PCC or Deanery Synod has discussed the 1991 House of Bishops’ report Issues in Human Sexuality or placed human sexuality on the agenda.
- If they have not, encourage your PCC or Synod to do add human sexuality to their agenda. Your ability to achieve anything may depend on whether you are a member or not and whether your clergy are sympathetic and comfortable with the issue.
- Talk with your own priest. He or she may never have had a conversation with a member of their congregation, and may wonder (and be anxious) about what the congregation’s views are.
Bishops and Archdeacons
- Talk with your bishop or archdeacon when they attend your church or deanery for confirmations, inductions and other events.
- Write to your bishop when there is media interest in the issue.
- Write to the Archbishop of Canterbury and express your appreciation of his initiatives and encourage him to proceed with confidence, continuing to listen to and respect lesbian and gay experience.
- Question your bishop, archdeacon, diocesan director of ordinands, vicar, rector, curate or whoever, when you hear them making statements, talking or preaching about sexuality in a negative or judgmental way. Let them know that some Christians think differently about human sexuality and relationships.
- Does your diocese have a Committee for Social Responsibility, a Social Responsibility Officer or a Human Sexuality group? If so, find out what it does and what information pack, if any, they have produced for your Diocese. Have a look at it and see if it covers all you need or see if you can become involved in the group and consider what expertise you can offer.
- If it has no Human Sexuality group, or it is covered by another group (one on the Family for instance) see if you can ask them to set one up. People to ask to be on such a group are: a GP, the Gay Men’s/LGBTI outreach worker (health authority), representatives of: your local Health Authority, local buddy and AIDS advisory and other voluntary groups, local gay/LGB social groups, Mothers Union, youth workers, teachers, as well as vicars, curates, chaplains and bishops! This is an excellent way to ensure your diocese is responding to the Lambeth Conference and to the C of E Bishops’ Statement to promote the discussion of these issues at diocesan down to parish level.
Media and Press
- Monitor stories in your national daily or local weekly paper. Write a letter in response.
Develop your own confidence
- Our ability to engage with these practical suggestions may depend on the confidence we have found in ourselves.
- Our first difficulty may be to overcome our own anxiety. If we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex, we will almost certainly have natural anxieties about revealing our sexuality. If we are heterosexual, we may have anxieties about revealing our own ideas and attitudes, and perhaps our own sexual and relationship experiences. We may fear we will be seen as abnormal or different.
- People testify to the relief experienced when they declare themselves to another person, and their surprise that the reaction is often positive and affirming. Other people may be very relieved to be given an opportunity to talk about their own experience.
- We need help in developing our own, inner confidence. We will almost certainly find this through contact with another person or group. We may find help in being a member of a support group, through participating in a workshop or conference, through the Changing Attitude Network or another LGBTI group or through a chance meeting. Developing our courage and confidence takes time. We need to discover the unashamed, healthy person inside ourselves.
If we set out to explore our personal experience of sexuality, intimacy, spirituality and relationships, within the context of our Christian journey, we are engaging in a demanding, life-long process. We will begin to discover areas of thought, experience and emotion in ourselves which we may find uncomfortable or unacceptable. The journey is necessary – but we will need help and care in navigating through our experience.
- We will certainly need to find space for ourselves in our daily lives, every day, ideally, to come home to ourselves in whatever pattern of spiritual practice or prayer most suits us. This is likely to involve a period of meditation and silence.
- We may need to provide ourselves with space for reflection and nourishment, both by taking time for ourselves on holidays, and going away for a retreat.
- We need to nourish every part of ourselves – to eat well, exercise our bodies appropriately, enjoy relaxation and time off, create a healing environment around us and nourish ourselves in good friendships.
- We may need a spiritual guide or counsellor who can support and encourage us as we explore our spiritual experiences and religious concepts.