AGM 2012: Chair’s Report

Martin Pendergast

I present this Annual Report for 2011/2012 on the work of the Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality (CSCS) only two days after the launch of the Government’s Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage. The issues which are highlighted in the Consultation Document and the debates in recent days show yet again, not only the need for an ecumenical network such as CSCS to be able to contribute to a specific debate, but also to situate the issues within a wider context which reflects a broader discussion of concerns around human sexuality. I will return to this later.

I first 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. 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. I must also thank Anthony Woollard for his vigorous editing of CSCS News and his astute holding us to the jobs before us, in and between Committee meetings.

There are others who act behind the scenes: Jane Fraser has served us as Minutes Secretary as well as continuing to be a driving force in our Theological Educators’ Project. Beyond the CSCS Committee, Andrew Yip has continued to be responsible for our 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. Philip Gardner has been our webmaster for a number of years, but has been severely incapacitated in recent times and so has been forced to give up this role. We are delighted that Terry Weldon has very recently agreed to step into this position and help us in our desire to update the website and make it more fit for purpose. We are also grateful to the Rector of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory Church, 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. As always we are grateful for the support of our Matron and Patrons, and glad that Bishop John Gladwin can be with us today.

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 ongoing 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.

We are pleased that Gerard Loughlin is with us today, not only for agreeing to be our keynote speaker, but also in his role as editor of Theology & Sexuality, and to be able to share with us his thoughts about the Journal’s direction.

CSCS contributed to the Government’s Consultation on Civil Partnerships in Religious Buildings, a summary of which appeared in CSCS Newsletter No. 41. Some of the issues which we highlighted then show signs of re-emerging in the Consultation on Equal Marriage. I urge everyone to engage anew in this further consultation regardless of where we might stand personally on the question of same-sex marriage. Please send us your comments, so that our formal contribution can express not just the Committee’s views but those of the wider CSCS membership.

CSCS is a founder member of the Cutting Edge Consortium and we have been actively involved in planning for its 3rd National Conference on 21 April 2012. If you have not yet booked in then please do so and take a batch of leaflets to spread around your friends and any other groups with which you are involved. 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.

The debates around all aspects of human sexuality show no sign of abating in all our churches. As long as this context exists, 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 created as part of God’s design, God’s work of art. As such, I commend to you the work of CSCS during 2011-2012.

Leave a Reply