AGM, 2011: Chair’s Report

The Chair’s Report – 12 February 2011

First and foremost, I must give thanks, as I’m sure will our dear Canon Jane Fraser, that I have survived this year as the new CSCS Chair without having to ring her up in the middle of the night, or at any other anti-social hours. Jane was a hard act to follow, and do not believe her when she bewails her self-claimed inefficiency. Life was made immeasurably easier by a smooth, neat hand-over, with all documents in their allotted places.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our Matron, Roberta Rominger, and Patrons, David Gamble and John Gladwin, for their support for CSCS and the advice they offer from time to time. We’re particularly grateful to Roberta for arranging for us to use the URC Headquarters for today’s meeting.

We were sorry to lose John and Daphne Cook on their retirement from the Committee, although Daphne was kind enough to stay on for a little longer to facilitate the hand-over of Treasurer’s duties to Colin Hart as our new Treasurer. Colin has now also taken on some membership responsibilities. We were also delighted that Rosie Martin agreed to be co-opted to the Committee, so that CSCS can respond to issues of gender variance more directly and effectively. I have been ably assisted and supported by a lively Committee. Anthony Woolard has continued to produce CSCS News, sometimes against all odds and often, I suspect, surprising even himself with the quality of its contents. We are currently exploring how secretarial functions can be shared.

At this point I would also like to thank those beyond the Committee in their support for CSCS: Mike Egan for his assiduous examination of our accounts, and Philip Gardner for his oversight of the CSCS website. We have been grateful to St. Matthew’s Church, Westminster, and latterly the Church of the Assumption in Soho, as venues for our Committee Meetings, and to the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham and Campion Hall, Oxford, for hosting Theological Educators’ meetings.

Like many organisations, founded in the 80’s and 90’s we experience a reducing membership as the founding stalwarts increase in maturity. When it appeared that perhaps our mission had been accomplished, members and others challenged us with the reality that CSCS is the only ecumenical network in the UK dealing with a broad range of human sexuality issues. The challenge for each CSCS member is to make CSCS’s work better known in their respective denominations, local churches, and other organisations. Over the past year we have continued to strengthen our links with sister-groups such as Modern Church, formerly known as the Modern Church-people’s Union, with Inclusive Church, and with the Cutting Edge Consortium. We are enlivened by the powerful stimulus that comes from these fruitful relationships. Some of these activities have expressed CSCS’s commitment not only to discussion and reflection on matters of human sexuality, but also action for justice and equality. Such action in turn becomes a fruitful source for our theological reflections and growth in faith.

Nowhere has our ecumenical commitment been more focussed that in the work of the Theological Educators project. Exploring how human sexuality is taught, what models of good practice can be discovered, what level of support is given to students as they grow in sexual maturity, and what kind of support is given in terms of post-graduation or post-ordination ongoing human development is highly relevant for all Churches. It’s not so much about talking about sex and sexuality, but rather enabling listening and experiences of faith and sexuality to be heard.

Key reports in Ireland and elsewhere on the Church and sexual abuse have highlighted inadequacies in recruitment, formation, education, and support. The Theological Educators’ group has tried to meet at least twice a year since its inception in March 2009. We meet again in late April to explore what practical outcomes we may draw from our process thus far, not least in drawing together those responsible for ordination and lay ministerial training across the various denominations. Although our detailed discussions have been subject to ‘Chatham House Rules’, it is a desire to share some of this work with you that occasioned the theme of today’s conference.

As the founding organisation which brought the journal, Theology & Sexuality, to birth, we continue to be frustrated by the vagaries of publishing companies, as well as the difficulties in communication between the editorial body and publishing executives. We seem to be powerless to effect any impact upon any of these systems and the reneging on their commitments to produce prompt editions of the journal. The CSCS Committee is deeply aware that the sporadic production of Theology & Sexuality may well be a reason for people to cease their CSCS membership.

The Committee is increasing conscious of the impact of social networking tools and internet

communication for networks such as CSCS, rather than a reliance on pieces of paper coming through letter-boxes. Over the next few moths we hope to enhance the quality of the CSCS website, enabling more direct communication with both the Committee and possibly between members. The website needs to be not simply a storage point for archived material but a source of information and resources, with easy links to sister organisations for anyone trying to explore the integration of Christian faith and sexuality.

Finally, your presence here today suggests that you believe that reflections on faith, sex, and sexuality are not, if I might quote the Revd. Clare Herbert’s recent maiden speech to General Synod , “hot potatoes for the young people in London’s West End, but the very stuff of mission , of deciding whether they can belong to, let alone lead, our church into the future.” I believe that the growing convergence amongst Christians of so many different traditions on major issues in human sexuality is creating a new unity, rather than more and more division in the Body of Christ. We see the evidence of this all around us and it is this ecumenical movement of the Spirit that the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality celebrates and is keen to promote for the building up of all God’s people.

Martin Pendergast

CSCS Chair – 12 February 2011

We are created by God”

For four Tuesday evenings in November a group of us met at Offa House [he Coventry Diocesan retreat house] to discuss this. We were blessed with the leadership of Rev. John and Daphne Cook. As Christians we believe that all of us are created by God. It was a mixed group of varying ages with three men amongst the ten gathered each time.

Each of us has been given a particular identity and during the four evenings we investigated that our identity and relationships encompass our whole life including our sexuality, which is not just about sexual intercourse but our whole being.

The content of the booklet supplied for the course helped us to discuss four different aspects of identity and relationships: marriage and cohabitation, divorce and further marriage, being single or widowed, gay and lesbian sexuality.

At times I felt uncomfortable about the subjects. having been brought up in a Christian home in the 30’s and 40’s, our sexuality was not an item that one met with in Church or at Home. (My church then was an Evangelical Free Church). Biblical teaching was the law and anyone who was not ‘normal’ was not welcomed. In the village where we lived divorced people were shunned and definitely were not allowed in Church, (including the Anglican Church).

The series opened my eyes and my heart to the problems that many individuals have, especially some members and some churches.

I would recommend this course to anyone, professing Christians or not and would suggest that Churches and Mothers’ Union branches should include it in their programme.

David Smith

I was uncertain what to expect on a course created by the Mothers’ Union having mental images of Jam and Jerusalem but found that both the material in Created by God and the group discussions tested and challenged my understanding of issues in human sexuality and relationships.

David Williams

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