In the last edition I wrote about the movements of tectonic plates. On the surface, debates about sexuality in the Churches (as about many other things) remain polarised and often bitter. But under the surface new things are coming to birth.
The recently published anthology Opening Up, reviewed below by John Cook, gives many examples of new thinking in the Roman Catholic Church, on sexuality as well as on social and political engagement, liturgy and other matters. It was compiled as a sixtieth birthday present to a member of our Committee, Martin Pendergast, whose service to renewal in his Church has been exceptional. It is an honour to have him amongst us, and good to see that his contribution has been thus celebrated. But there are certainly many other embers of CSCS whose contributions, if maybe not on the same scale, are significant – but unsung. We want to hear more of your experiences of contributing to the debate.
Another honour to CSCS has been the agreement of some distinguished church leaders to serve as Patrons and Matrons. We include here a short article by one of them: John Gladwin, the Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford, who spoke memorably at one of our Annual Conferences some years ago and helpfully introduced some of us to Foucault and other representatives of postmodern thought on sexuality. John will be returning, with speakers/panellists from other denominations, to contribute to our Annual Conference on 11 February on the sexuality debate in ecumenical perspective. It will be particularly good if at this conference we can see a suitably ecumenical spread of our membership, since the Committee has long been concerned about Anglican domination!
Those of us who do belong to that particular Communion can so easily forget that the trials and tribulations of current debates, notably about homosexuality, are not the whole story about what is happening in the Churches. On 11 February we have a chance to engage with the bigger picture. There is a booking form in this edition; book now!
There is still, also, a chance to book for our residential conference in the summer jointly with the Modern Churchpeople’s Union and the Student Christian Movement. This promises to be a major and highly popular event, so you are strongly advised to book early. Student discounts may well be available, and it would be particularly good to see some students from the theological colleges and courses to which we are now circulating this Newsletter. Those who will exercise leadership in our Churches badly need time, space and support to wrestle with the contemporary issues of sexuality. This conference will provide these things. It is not to be missed!
Meanwhile, so much other work and thinking goes on. Jane Fraser, our Chair, is not one to blow her own trumpet – though she is, I know, proud of her recent appointment as a Canon of Worcester Cathedral in recognition of her local and national work in important areas of sexuality, notably teenage pregnancy and the sexual needs of the disabled and those with learning difficulties. Her contribution to this edition focuses on bringing members up to date on various CSCS matters, but behind it lies a probably unrivalled wealth of practical engagement in real-life issues. At a more intellectual level, Will Adam’s work on the legal implications of the ordination of women bishops will be of interest to many readers.
Time and other pressures do not enable us to give as much space as we should like to the work of sister organisations such as LGCM and Changing Attitude – or in the area of women’s ministry GRAS and WATCH. We know, however, that there has been much activity in these other parts of the wood. The debate on women bishops to which Will refers seems to be steadily advancing, and certainly in General Synod elections within my own Diocese the atmosphere was one of almost overwhelming support. Issues around the ministry of gay people remain more troubling, but we must congratulate those involved in the production of the recent book edited by Richard Kirker and Andrew Linzey, which we hope to review in a future edition, and those involved in bringing Bishop Gene Robinson to these shores and into dialogue with the Archbishop of Canterbury. There are so many signs that the tectonic plates are on the move.
But all this is just the tip of the iceberg. Every member of CSCS, and many who are not yet members, must be contributing something to the movement of those plates. The media may portray Christianity (and especially Anglicanism) as riven with disputes over sexuality and lacking anything positive to say on the subject to our generation. There is, depressingly, truth in that picture, but it is by no means the whole truth. How many people are quietly discovering, and perhaps sharing with others, a faith that is true to their own sexuality. The small trickle of renewal could become a torrent if we worked together to make it so.