Modern Church has just published its latest journal which focuses on same-sex partnerships and equal marriage. The journal has been guest-edited by Savitri Hensman who contributes the first article. It has been assembled following publication of the Pilling Report in December 2013 but the articles were all written prior to the first equal marriages being celebrated.
The articles address wider questions about the circumstances in which sexual relationships can be emotionally and spiritually beneficial. Savi notes that Christian discussions about a change in policy and practice and the introduction of equal marriage in a growing number of countries takes place against a background of intensified hostility to LGBT people in other parts of the world, including the introduction of new criminal penalties.
Her own article, Blessed Companionship: A Church’s Journey, is the first. Savi reviews the history of developments in the wider church, beginning with Edward Carpenter’s 1908 publication The Intermediate Sex: A Study of Some Transitional Types of Men and Women. Carpenter, a campaigner for the rights of sexual minorities, was formerly a Church of England curate. Savi traces developments to Justin Welby’s opposition to equal marriage in Parliament, where many Christian MPs and peers argued for change on theological grounds. Pessimistically, Savi anticipates that intense debate is likely to continue in years to come. Savi is a writer, activist, Ekklesia associate and on the Board of LGCM and works in the voluntary sector.
American Eugene F. Rogers paper, Same-sex marriage as an ascetic practice in the light of Romans 1 and Ephesians 5 builds on his earlier published work and argues as the title says: for same-sex marriage as an ascetic practice, answering objections drawn from Romans and Ephesians. Rogers is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, USA.
David G. Myers, professor of psychology at Hope College, Holland, Michigan, USA, contributes the next article, Most are straight, some are gay, and why it is that way: the science of sexual orientation. Scientific enquiry reveals no evidence that environmental issues determine sexual orientation. Biological influences may include the presence of same-sex behaviours in many animal species, straight-gay differences in body and brain characteristics, higher rates in certain families and in identical twins, and exposure to certain hormones during critical periods of prenatal development. The result is a number of gay straight differences in various traits.
Christianity and sexual morality revisited is an edited selection by Savi Hensman of Kenneth Ingram’s work. An Anglican theologian in the 1940s, he argued that the morality of sexual relationships is dependent on the presence or absence of love, not in the sense of infatuation but rather a deeper bond that treats the other as a person not an object. Ingram was one of the first Church of England thinkers to argue for a consistent approach to opposite-sex and same-sex partnerships.
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. Charlotte is Senior Lecturer in Church History at the University of Glasgow.
Christina Beardsley, a Changing Attitude trustee, in Love is a many gendered thing: gender roles, relationships and trans people, suggests looking at the realities of transsexual and transgender people’s lives and questioning inflexible concepts of differences between men and women. Tina is Head of Multi-faith Chaplaincy at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
Savi concludes that feelings of attraction, falling in love and formation of long-term partnerships are extremely common aspects of human experience; and, while same-sex relationships were at one time shrouded in secrecy and still are in some parts of the world, these are harder to ignore than was previously the case. In the Church of England, other churches and wider society, reflection on the significance of sexuality, proper place for sexual intimacy and living with difference will, no doubt, continue in future years.
This is an extremely valuable collection of papers and highly recommended. Information about the Journal can be found on the Modern Church web site, but I’m not sure how you order a copy!
From the website:
Modern Believing is the journal of Modern Church, published quarterly. It publishes articles in Theology and related disciplines to promote theological liberalism.
Modern Believing has a century long record of contributions from church leaders, established theologians, and newly-emerging theological minds. It is committed to high academic standards and to high accessibility, and it values each equally. It seeks to promote a critical, creative and constructive spirit in theological enquiry. It provides opportunities for new voices in the Academy and in the Church to become heard.