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Sexuality, and a C of E working group on it

11 January 2012


From the Revd Colin Coward

Sir, — Changing Attitude has two serious concerns about the composition and remit of the group appointed to advise the House of Bishops on the C of E’s approach to human sexuality (News, 6 January).

The group is designed to represent in some way the broad spectrum of opinion within the Church about sexuality. It is, however, entirely male in its composition. Since we live in a society in which it is unthinkable to appoint a group to advise on human sexuality without including both genders and representatives from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual (LGBT) community, we consider that the work of the group is chal­lenged from the start. Its findings will be seriously flawed.

Changing Attitude has been con­sulted several times recently by dioceses seeking information about how other dioceses have imple­mented the listening process. The answer is: the majority haven’t. To the best of our knowledge, no one has monitored progress or collated results. By default, Changing Attitude is assumed to be the group with the wisdom and knowledge. Failure by the Church of England to take the listening process seriously is one reason why we distrust the latest initiative by the House of Bishops.

This new group will offer pro­posals on how the continuing dis­cussion within the C of E about human sexuality might best be shaped in the light of the (almost non-existent) listening process. So, two more years down the line, and 22 years after publication of the deeply flawed Issues in Human Sexuality, proposals will be offered from which the House will discharge its commitment to producing a consultation document in 2013.

There is deep anger and frustration among LGBT people in the C of E, together with our fam­ilies, friends, and members of our congregations. We are available to be consulted now. We expect the Church to have learnt something about appropriate process, and to have included direct LGBT ex­peri­ence in any newly appointed group.

We will continue to work for change in the Church while the group searches for information about the listening process. We foresee rising tension after raised expectations that lesbian and gay Christians will be able to register civil partnerships in religious build­ings. These expectations will in­crease when the Government launches the consultation on mar­riage equality.

Director of Changing Attitude England
6 Norney Bridge, Mill Road
Worton, Devizes SN10 5SF

From Canon Judith Maltby

Director of Changing Attitude England
6 Norney Bridge, Mill Road
Worton, Devizes SN10 5SF

From Canon Judith Maltby

Sir, — Given the composition of the House of Bishops’ Working Party on Human Sexuality, surely it would be more accurately called the House of Bishops’ Working Party on Male Sexuality? I trust that an all-male group will assume a competence to report only on the sexuality of the half of the human race to which it belongs. To do otherwise would exhibit a breath­taking presumption. If ever there was a subject for a 50/50 gender balance in a working group, this must surely be one of them.

Corpus Christi College
Oxford OX1 4JF

From the Revd Peter Sellick

Sir, — Professional studies show that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people often suffer worse mental health. They show higher levels of anxiety, depression, and suicidal feelings than heterosexuals. On 10 October, a joint initiative between the C of E and the Time to Change campaign was launched by the Bishop of Black­burn, the Rt Revd Nicholas Reade (C of E “In Review” insert, 2 December). Time to Change is work­ing to end mental-health dis­crim­ination.

Your account of the Lords’ debate about civil-partnership registrations in religious premises (News, 23 December) describes Bishop Reade, among others, asking for a con­science clause in the legislation to protect clergy who do not wish to register civil partnerships. C of E churches have been told that we can have nothing to do with conducting civil-partnership ceremonies.

Studies have shown that com­mitted long-term relationships im­prove mental health. A WHO study revealed last year that marriage could reduce the risk of anxiety and de­pression, and that those who tied the knot were much less likely to suffer the blues than those who stayed single. A recent re­port from Massachusetts evidenced an improvement in the health of gay people after legalisation of same-sex unions.

Just what is the C of E’s policy regarding the mental health of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people? Is the Church campaigning for their improved mental health, or just for that of heterosexual people?

7 Hopkins Drive
West Bromwich B71 3RR

From Mrs Serena Lancaster

Sir, — The need for intimacy and trusting relationships is basic to being human: the Song of Songs affirms the goodness of human sexuality, and celebrates faithful human love. It emphasises the quality of the relationship, with no mention of marriage or procreation: “My beloved is mine and I am his.”

Dr Lisa Nolland (Letters, 23 December) argues persuasively that, when considering the right ordering of human sexuality, we should take into account its fluidity and variety. While some people are undoubtedly polyamorous, or attracted to minors, the Church should promote and nurture only relationships that are respectful, committed, mutual, and faithful; for any exploitative relationship is profoundly damaging.

The Gables, Broadwell
Moreton-in-Marsh GL56 0UF

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