Category Archives: Chair’s Report

Annual Report 2013

In case you were beginning to think that CSCS Annual Conferences were deliberately planned to coincide with Government Consultations, I need to state very clearly that there is absolutely no collusion between CSCS and the Government Equalities Office, nor its partner Departments concerned with marriage and civil partnerships. It just proves that, small as we are, we always have our finger on the pulse! Two years ago our AGM was held only 2 days after the launch of the Government’s Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage. Last year we found ourselves in the middle of the Committee Stage of the ensuing Same-Sex Marriage Bill. This year, our AGM Conference takes place in the midst of the Consultation on the future of Civil Partnerships and the early stages of implementing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. I urge you to respond to this latest Consultation, as well as to look at the recent Government response on Shared Building Regulations in the context of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. There are clearly practical issues in both these documents for those us on the ground to consider. I for one am unhappy at the strongly hinted attempt in the Civil Partnerships Consultation to force the civilly-partnered into the status of marriage, doing away with civil partnerships. For me, this is a conscience issue, since my view of marriage is informed theologically by the traditional Catholic view that the sacrament of marriage symbolises the union of Christ (masculine) with his Church (feminine). This essentially heterosexual paradigm is not something as a gay man I can relate to and so, in conscience, decline and conscientiously dissent.

The sacramentality of my civil partnership where we have ministered this sacrament to each other – again, traditional Catholic sacramental theology – is a civil and religious expression of the biblical vision that ‘it is not good for people to be alone’ and reflects the oft-buried, historical witness of same-sex unions, equally sacramental but distinct from the marital state. The document repeatedly refers to `ideological objections’ to marriage, not least in its comments on those opposite-sex couples who seek civil partnerships. I feel there is a certain tone of denigration in the document’s references to this. I would say that in my personal desire NOT to enter into marriage, I am exercising my right to freedom of thought, conscience, and belief in maintaining my civil partner status, not taking an ideological stance.

Once again this year’s Conference theme is as pertinent as ever – who shall speak, if we don’t?

This not only highlights the need for an ecumenical network such as CSCS to be able to contribute to these debates, but also to situate the issues within a wider context which reflects a broader discussion of concerns around human sexuality and gender identity. Across denominations, we see shifts in theological understanding and pastoral practice, from the Church of England Pilling Report to the Vatican’s ground-breaking survey of Roman Catholics on marriage and family issues, including LGB if not yet T issues, via URC & Methodist debates and decisions. Meanwhile, our friends in the Quakers, UnitarianChristianFreeChurches, Liberal and Reformed Judaism are ready to celebrate same-sex marriages.

We are, however, a dwindling and ageing band of disciples. I have come to the belief that organisations such as those which many of us support, including CSCS, are acquiring antique value. New technologies and their social communications instruments enable people gathered around particular interests, not least younger generations, to interact, far quicker, more directly, and with less administrative and bureaucratic burdens and costs. Membership in all sorts of groups and organisations, including many church congregations, tends to adopt an increasingly passive role, of being ‘done to’, rather than taking responsive, proactive action.

That said, each of you can still promote CSCS’s vision through all the other means you have available: Is our up-dated the CSCS membership leaflet in your local church leaflet-rack or information-table? If not, why not? Do you think of asking CSCS for Newsletter copies and leaflets when you attend other conferences or meetings. Does your website – personal, church or other organisation – link to CSCS?

Given the difficulties we have in CSCS in coaxing members to engage with the organisation more actively, whether through attendance at meetings, comments in the Newsletter, subscribing to Theology & Sexuality, engagement with the website, or offering their experience and skills at Committee level, we must face serious decisions regarding our future. For how long can we remain a viable independent network? Should we embark on a search to find new forms of partnership, or, who knows, even an ‘equal marriage’ of like-with-like groups.

I wish to apologise that family illness as well as a family bereavement, not least dealing with the aftermaths, has meant that since August, I have not been my usual ‘hands-on’ self in CSCS matters. I wish to thank, on your behalf, all my colleagues on the CSCS Committee for their support, as well as for their willingness to engage so selflessly in the tasks before us. We have met as a Committee three times over the past year, having to cancel a proposed end-of-year-meeting due to my bereavement and being abroad.

I know I speak for all Committee members, as well as those involved in our Theological Educators project, when I express our regret at the resignation of Rosie Martin. As transgender and intersex issues come more and more to the fore, it is vital that we embody this experience in the CSWCS Committee. I really do wish to urge CSCS members to consider if they could offer their experience as Committee members. I indicated last year that I would not stand as Chair beyond 2014-15. The challenge is there!

I particularly wish to thank Colin Hart, our Treasurer, for keeping not only our finances in good order, but also taking on the role of Membership Secretary. It has made sense to combine these roles, not least to avoid unnecessary duplication and confusion in coordinating membership subscriptions and subsequent renewals. We all deeply regret Colin’s resignation from the Committee, but recognise the pastoral burdens he has had to take on in very difficult local circumstances. We are therefore in urgent need of a new Treasurer. Future arrangements for combining the Treasurer’s role with that of Membership is something which can be left to the Committee to decide, depending on our ability to recruit a new Treasurer.

Due to my own personal circumstances since the Summer, I must also apologise for not being able to adequately pursue the Charity Commission over its administrative blunders and its website difficulties, with the disappearance into the ether of our recent submitted reports, which led to us not being able to receive Gift Aid. Anyone who has followed media coverage of Charity Commission doings over the last year will be aware of the structural mess in which it seems to find itself. As well as the introduction of a range of new regulations, this clearly has knock-on effects for small charities such as CSCS and those seeking new charitable status. As Colin notes in his Treasurer’s Report, this is urgent to pursue, and I ask, once again for your forbearance as I aim to complete this task shortly.

Anthony Woollard seemingly conjures regular editions of CSCS News almost out of nothing. We have discussed how we might manage an editor’s succession process since Anthony would dearly love to hand over the reins. If there are members with the skills required for Newsletter editing, we would like to hear from you. Again, please feel free to take extra copies of the CSCS Newsletter, present and past issues, where there is much useful material. It may well be that, as with a number of other groups, we shall have to focus our future attention on internet communications, rather than mailing paper copies, hence the need to ensure we have e-mail addresses of all those in our membership who have them.

There are others who act behind the scenes: Jane Fraser serves us as Minutes Secretary as well as continuing to be a driving force in the Theological Educators’ Project. We congratulate Jane on the up-coming 25thAnniversary of her ecclesiastical sex-worker ministry as Deacon and Priest in Upton­on-Severn, and nationally. Beyond the CSCS Committee, Andrew Yip has continued to be responsible for Newsletter mailings to members, backed up by Jane Fraser, and not least our printers for their efficient turn-around of Newsletter production, after Heather Barfoot has carried out her proof­reading. Terry Weldon has managed to turn round our previous moribund CSCS website, and he will update us on that briefly.

Sadly, our Soho venue for CSCS Committee became unavailable after last year’s January meeting, as the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, whom we thought would not be sympathetic to our aims, took over both Church and Rectory. We have however been able to use other Catholic premises for our 2013 Committee meetings in May and July. We are also grateful to the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, Campion Hall, Oxford, and Ripon College Cuddesdon for hosting meetings of the Theological Educators’ Project. As always we are grateful for the support of our Matron and Patrons, and glad that Bishop John Gladwin agreed to chair part of today’s programme. Last but not least, I thank our faithful members for their continuing support and generosity.

Beyond our Newsletter publication, our main activity has been the Theological Educators’ Project, exploring how issues of human sexuality are being dealt with in the recruitment of people for ordained and lay ministry across a range of denominations, their academic training and the support offered during such formation, as well as the level of on-going support in the growth of sexually healthy and mature pastoral ministers. We have met approximately twice of three times a year. The wider group includes Anglican, Methodist, MetropolitanCommunityChurch, Roman Catholic, and United Reformed Church members, many of whom hold particular responsibility for training and academic input in both denominational and ecumenical schemes. This has taken on new energy as we gear up for what we hope will be an exciting, major conference in July 2014, at Cuddesdon. We hope to gather key people across the denominations, responsible for all forms of ministerial training and development. We have received an initial positive response from a grant-making Trust to support this venture and I await final confirmation of the grant. Thanks to Terry Weldon, we now have a Theological Educators’ Resources page on the new website. Although commenting on the Church of England’s Common Awards theological education process, we have heard nothing further from Church House.

We continue to be frustrated by both the unheralded arrivals of new publishers as well as the infrequent appearance of the journal, Theology & Sexuality, and continue to badger both the editors and publishers about this. Indeed, this year we found the Editor contacting us for information he couldn’t lay hands on elsewhere! Jane Fraser will speak to this shortly.

I hope that CSCS members will play a part in the Cutting Edge Consortium’s 4th National Conference in April 2014, information on which is available today. We continue to enjoy contact with groups such as Changing Attitude, Inclusive Church, LGCM, Modern Church, and always look for opportunities to work together on matters of common interest. We are also a member of the National Children’s Bureau Sex Education Forum. Your Chair has co-signed a number of letters to the national press and government departments on the need for sex and relationships education to be a mandatory part of the National Curriculum.

So, like the current inundations, sex and gender, marriage and family issues show little sign of abating. No doubt there will still be storms ahead, but it is CSCS’s role to be part of this particular cutting edge, offering informed, reasoned reflection and evidence-based responses whether in the civil or religious arena. In any storm, the temptation is always to batten down the hatches, stay quietly calm, and hope that someone, somewhere, will take the prophetic role. Who will speak, if we don’t? As such, I commend to you the work of CSCS during 2013-2014.

Martin Pendergast, Chairperson – CSCS, 15 February 2014

Chair’s Annual Report 2012-13

Martin Pendergast

I presented last year’s Annual Report on the work of CSCS only two days after the launch of the Government’s Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage. This Annual Report for 2012-2013 comes in the middle of the Committee Stage of the ensuing Same-Sex Marriage Bill. In recent weeks we have also seen the European Court of Human Rights judgement’s on cases involving conflicts around religion, diversity, and human rights. Very many of us were pleased that the Court rejected the appeals of those who were found to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people in the course of their employment.

Once again, we see not only the need for an ecumenical network such as CSCS to be able to contribute to these debates, but also to situate the issues within a wider context which reflects a broader discussion of concerns around human sexuality and gender identity.

But there is still a long road to travel. In the context of today’s Conference theme on transgender and faith, I was appalled by the ignorance displayed by representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales when they appeared before the House of Commons Committee earlier on 12 February. If I may quote from the Hansard Report:

Q 83 Kate Green:  May I ask you the same question I asked the representatives of the Church of England? If an opposite-sex couple marry in a Catholic church and subsequently one member of that couple undergoes gender reassignment, do they remain married in the eyes of the Catholic Church? Under this law, they will in the eyes of the law. 

Archbishop Peter Smith : They would in the Catholic Church as well. 

Q 84 Kate Green:  They would be a same-sex couple at that point. 

Archbishop Peter Smith : Well, perhaps legally. 

Q 85 Kate Green:  So you do not accept the reassignment of gender? 

Archbishop Peter Smith : I do not accept that we can change someone’s gender. There is a real difficulty when it comes to what is called gender dysphoria: somebody who is very inclined to think someone is opposite to what they are. 

And later:

Q 104 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Mrs Helen Grant):  Archbishop Smith, in relation to the transgender provisions in the Bill and to pick up a point made earlier by the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston, you indicated that the person changing gender would be legally married but questioned whether it would be possible to do that. Can you tell me whether that person and that couple would still be treated as part of the Catholic community and welcomed with dignity and respect? 

Archbishop Peter Smith: They would certainly be part of the Catholic community, but we would not approve—the Church teaches clearly that you cannot change gender. I know that that is not the current mores out in secular society. As a priest or bishop, if somebody came along and said that they had changed their gender, I would have to say to them from the Church’s point of view, “You cannot get married.” 

The Chair:  But your point earlier was that you would none the less welcome them with respect and dignity. 

Archbishop Peter Smith: Absolutely. Always. 

This shows once again how pertinent today’s Conference is, and I particularly want to thank the Sibyls Group for being partners with us in planning today’s event.

I also wish to thank, on your behalf, all my colleagues on the CSCS Committee for their support, as well as for their willingness to engage so selflessly in the tasks before us. We have met as a Committee four times over the past year. I particularly wish to thank Colin Hart, our Treasurer, for keeping not only our finances in good order, but also taking on the role of Membership Secretary. It continues to make sense that these roles are combined, not least to avoid unnecessary duplication and confusion in coordinating membership subscriptions and subsequent renewals. You will notice that we have up-dated the CSCS membership leaflet – please take an extra copy, or copies, today to pass on to friends, or place in your church leaflet rack.

Here I must beg your forbearance for administrative blunders at the Charity Commission and its website, and the disappearance into the ether of our submitted report last year, which led to us not being able to receive Gift Aid. I am still engaged with officials trying to extricate ourselves from these difficulties, and I hope this matter will be resolved shortly.

I also want to thank Anthony Woollard for his steadfast editing of CSCS News. At our latest Committee Meeting we discussed how we might manage an editor’s succession process since Anthony would dearly love to hand over the reins of this particular horse, before he or it gets turned into a Burger or Bolognese. If there are members with the skills required for Newsletter editing, we would like to hear from you.  Again, please feel free to take extra copies of the CSCS Newsletter, present and past issues, where there is much useful material.

There are others who act behind the scenes: Jane Fraser serves us as Minutes Secretary as well as continuing to be a driving force in the Theological Educators’ Project. Beyond the Committee, Andrew Yip has continued to be responsible for Newsletter mailings to members, backed up by Jane Fraser, and not least our printers for their efficient turn-around of Newsletter production, after Heather Barfoot has carried out her proof-reading. We were delighted that Terry Weldon agreed to join the Committee and take charge of a rather moribund CSCS website, so that we now have a site which is very much fit for purpose.

We are also grateful to the Rector of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory, Soho, in affording us hospitality for our Committee meetings, to the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, and Campion Hall, Oxford, for hosting meetings of the Theological Educators’ Project. Sadly, our Soho venue will become unavailable as the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham will be taking over both Church and Rectory. Somehow, I don’t think our concerns would be shared in that arrangement. As always we are grateful for the support of our Matron and Patrons, and glad that Bishop John Gladwin agreed to chair part of today’s programme.

Beyond our Newsletter publication, our main activity has been the Theological Educators’ Project, exploring how issues of human sexuality are being dealt with in the recruitment of people for ordained and lay ministry across a range of denominations, their academic training and the support offered during such formation, as well as the level of on-going support in the growth of sexually healthy and mature pastoral ministers. We have met approximately twice of three times a year. The wider group includes Anglican, Methodist, Metropolitan Community Church, Roman Catholic, and United Reformed Church members, many of whom hold particular responsibility for training and academic input in both denominational and ecumenical schemes. This exciting work proceeds, inevitably, at a slow and steady pace, as we seek to discern what appropriately useful outcomes might emerge from our conversations.

Thanks to Terry Weldon, we now have a Theological Educators’ Resources page on the new website. We are pursuing the idea of a residential conference event, probably later in 2014 to gather key people across the denominations, responsible for all forms of ministerial training and development. We have also commented on the Church of England’s Common Awards theological education process, but rather like certain other ‘listening exercises’, this seems a long drawn out affair with not much sign of any concrete outcome in the immediate future.

We continue to be frustrated by the infrequent appearance of the journal, Theology & Sexuality, and continue to badger both the editors and publishers about this.

CSCS members have continued to play a part in the Cutting Edge Consortium and not least its 3rd National Conference in April 2012. We continue to enjoy close contact with groups such as Changing Attitude, Inclusive Church, LGCM, Modern Church, and always look for opportunities to work together on matters of common interest. We have also agreed to become a member of the National Children’s Bureau Sex Education Forum.

The debates around all aspects of human sexuality, gender identity and variation, show no sign of abating in all our churches. As long as this is so, there is a need for a network such as CSCS to play its part in responding critically, challenging constructively, and celebrating the rich diversity of all women, children and men, as the rich tapestry of human sexuality and gender created as part of God’s design, God’s work of art. As such, I commend to you the work of CSCS during 2012-2013.

AGM 2009: Chair’s Report

REPORT FROM THE CHAIR

Jane Fraser

As in the previous two years, CSCS has struggled to meet its aims of providing opportunities for sexuality to be discussed honestly and openly and to help others in the churches to provide similar opportunities. Personally, I see the decline in active interest and participation in CSCS as due to a growing polarisation of Christian thinking on sexuality issues. It is also noticeable that a significant number of our members is involved in more than one such group, including Inclusive Church, WATCH, Changing Attitude and LGCM.

However, we have continued to provide a thoughtful voice in the churches through the medium of our support for the distribution of the Journal, Theology and Sexuality. This continues to offer a forum for an academic, theological understanding of such matters. At a more accessible level, our CSCS Newsletter, under the extremely able editorship of Anthony Woollard, has gathered an impressive array of articles, comment, reviews and correspondence for the stimulation, guidance and support of our membership. We are enormously grateful to Anthony for the diligent way he has worked on this aspect of our ministry.

Other members of your committee have also worked hard to promote the aims of CSCS. Not least of these is Daphne Cook, who has managed our finances to keep us solvent and self-supporting, without the need for any outside funding. With John, her husband, she has offered hospitality and support for our committee meetings. Their network of contacts and the experience of a working lifetime for the Church have been on great value, too. I must also thank Michael Egan for examining our accounts and assisting Daphne with any difficulties she encountered and Philip Gardner for his oversight of our CSCS website. This brings me to note how much we also owe a debt of gratitude to the experience and vast network of contacts given to us by Martin Pendergast, not simply from the Roman Catholic Church but also in the secular field around sexuality issues. His support to me, via email and telephone contact has been invaluable.

The main focus of our work this year has been to follow up on the decision made at the last AGM, that we should try to offer the experience and expertise to be found within CSCS and similar Christian organisations to the education and training of those preparing for lay or ordained ministry. You expressed concern about the lack of preparedness of ministers in pastoral care around sexual relationships and behaviour. Although it has taken us a whole year to do so, we have finally succeeded in gathering an impressive group of people from the Church of England, the United Reformed Church, the Roman Catholic Church and Methodists, all responsible for sexuality education and training in theological colleges, seminaries and schools for ministry in this country. We shall be meeting in March at The Queens College Birmingham as guests of the Principal, The Revd. Canon Dr David Hewlett. We shall, of course, report on the outcome of this meeting in the CSCS Newsletter. We have benefited from the advice, information and contacts of our Patrons, The Rt. Revd. John Gladwin and The Revd. David Gamble, our Matron, The Revd. Roberta Rominger. Each has expressed their regret that they were not able to attend today but have sent us their good wishes for this event.

This brings me to what we hope will be an outcome of the project I have just described – growing links and collaboration with other organisations with a similar ethos. We were delighted that The Revd. Clare Herbert was able to contribute to our thinking around inclusive sexual ethics and pastoral care today. This link with Inclusive Church has been a two-way process, as Anthony Woollard and I have been involved in helping to organise a joint conference in 2010. Anthony and I also serve on the Council of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union, Anthony as an elected member and your Chair as a CSCS observer. Your Chair is an active member of the General Synod of the Church of England where issues of sexuality and gender are never completely absent from the agenda.

Finally, I have the difficult task of reporting to you that I shall no longer be your Chair by the end of this coming year. The pressure on my time and my home life now that my husband has retired and I am meant to be semi-retired, has become too great. John and Daphne Cook, for similar reasons, have expressed a need to retire. We have seen no-one willing to come forward to take our places and this will mean that CSCS, in the form that it was constituted, cannot continue. We will take forward the project we have begun and we will discuss with our partner organisations how our mission might continue under other headings.

It is with great sadness that I have to present this development to you but I ask for your prayers, your advice and your forbearance as we work towards this conclusion. At the same time, I want to offer my thanks and those of the Committee, to all those who, over the years have supported us and our work.

AGM 2007: Chair’s Report

REPORT FROM THE CHAIR FOR THE AGM OF CSCS
10 TH FEBRUARY 2007

CSCS has continued to meet its aims of providing opportunities for sexuality to be discussed honestly and openly and to help others in the churches to provide similar opportunities. This has been achieved through the medium of the CSCS Newsletter, through contacts with other Christian bodies and conferences/workshops. This process has been steered along the way by the commitment and energy of its committee members who have continued to meet quarterly to discuss policy, topics of relevance to our aims and the interests of our membership, items for the Newsletter and finance. In addition to these meetings there has been regular contact and discussion through the medium of email. The committee is a small but energetic and committed group who would welcome additional support from other members to invigorate our planning for and organisation of CSCS. We are grateful for the generous hospitality of John and Daphne Cook for these meetings and Daphne’s diligent oversight of membership fees and CSCS finances. We were sorry to lose Colin Coward from the Committee due to his increased commitments with Changing Attitude but we continue to ‘keep him in the loop’ and draw on his contacts and expertise. Anthony Woollard continues to double as minutes secretary and editor of CSCS News. Martin Pendergast has enriched our understanding of sexuality issues and concerns within the Roman Catholic Church and we continue to marvel at the extent and breadth of his range of contacts – both within and outside the churches.

The introduced a two-tier membership subscription seems to have been successful in enabling some members to remain involved with CSCS without the additional payment for Theology and Sexuality. Membership numbers, since releasing those who had ceased to pay an annual subscription, have remained broadly static, but we continue to get a trickle of new members. The majority of current members have chosen to receive the newsletter three times a year and the journal Theology and Sexuality. Sage Publications have agreed to keep the subscription to the journal at the same rate as last year. Anthony Woollard continues to play an active role in the production of the CSCS Newsletter, both as commissioning editor and as a stimulating contributor. We are grateful for his oversight of current issues of concern to the membership and his ability to stimulate lively debate among the membership. We look forward to receiving contributions from two of our Patrons, The Revd. David Gamble, Co-ordinating Secretary, Legal & Constitutional Practice in the Methodist Church and The Revd. Roberta Rominger, Moderator of the Thames North Synod of the United Reformed Church. We value the continuing commitment of The Rt Revd. John Gladwin to the aims of CSCS which is reflected in his willingness to contribute to our Annual Conference today. Both David Gamble and Roberta Rominger were extremely disappointed not to be able to attend today and have sent us their good wishes for this event. We continue to develop our links with other Christian organisations with agendas that overlap with our aims. Colin Coward is our main link with Changing Attitude and will be travelling to Africa to attend the meeting of Primates where one of the main agenda items is the subject of the Church’s position on gay clergy. Three of our committee members serve on the Council of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union, Anthony Woollard and Jean Mayland as elected members and your Chair as a CSCS observer, together with two other CSCS members. The annual, residential conference of MCU last summer was a joint enterprise with CSCS and SCM and was extremely successful, generating a surplus of £300 to CSCS funds. We also maintain links with Inclusive Church and LGCM to our mutual benefit. Martin Pendergast has been actively involved in the LGCM conference on homophobia, which takes place later this month. Your Chair is active on the General Synod of The Church of England where, as you know, there is a continuing, lively (and sometimes acrimonious) debate on the role of gay clergy in the priesthood and of women in the episcopate. She is also active in raising concern within church congregations on the problem of teenage pregnancy and has started to organise conferences on this topic with funding from the Teenage Pregnancy Units in the Midlands. As an experienced trainer, she has run a workshop on sexuality education with church and youth work funding and plans to continue this work.

Lat year we circulated the CSCS Newsletter to Theological colleges and seminaries as an
experiment to stimulate interest in CSCS and its aims but this was not successful in its aim.

We are grateful to Philip Gardner for his continued work on updating the CSCS website despite other pressures on his time and expertise.

In the meantime, our thanks are due to Daphne Cook, in her capacity as our Treasurer, for
drawing up the end of year accounts for us and for keeping us within our budget. Thanks are also due to Michael Egan for auditing the accounts.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the membership who contribute to the aims of CSCS by encouraging education and informed debate on the issues around Christianity and sexuality within your church communities and congregation.

The Revd. Canon Jane Fraser
Chair of CSCS

 

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