As our Annual Conference approaches I am still optimistic that a new editor might be found for this newsletter, as well as more new blood for other aspects of CSCS’ work. There have been times when my editing task has felt a bit like vanity publishing because of the amount that I have had to write myself – though my fellow Committee members have contributed much also. Perhaps as I come towards what may be the end of my stint in the editor’s chair, I might be permitted some serious vanity? It is just possible that some readers may find this not only interesting but useful.
Last spring, in my own parish, there was a series of discussions on issues of sexuality facing the Church of England (and most other churches) today. The discussions were led by Canon Andrew Dow, a Conservative Evangelical now retired from paid ministry who is attached to the parish; Daphne Cook, well known to many readers as a former treasurer of CSCS and influential in Mothers’ Union circles; and myself. As might be imagined, Andrew and I were at opposite poles of the spectrum, and Daphne somewhere in between though a good deal nearer to me than to Andrew! Up to fifty people attended, and the discussions were at times decidedly painful and exhausting, yet, I believe, rewarding. If nothing like this has been tried in your church, perhaps of my speaking notes reproduced below might give you some ideas? To offer only my own contributions is of course rather one-sided, but the other contributors made less use of notes, and mine may be of interest as “a (not the!) CSCS perspective”.
Some of the deeper issues may be much harder to discuss. The Anglican debate about women bishops and “headship”, when combined for example with certain articles in the latest edition of Christianity and Sexuality and the extraordinary impact of E L James’ books , convinces me increasingly that we need to look far more deeply at words like “surrender” and “submission”. This is not just about BDSM – like me, few church people will have read Fifty Shades of Grey, and even fewer would admit to having done so – but may play a much wider role in sexual relationships, and it is also a key issue in some widespread expressions of our relationship to God, and may be additionally sensitive for that reason. Both Martin Pendergast and I touched on “submission” in the last issue. There is much, much more to be said, but perhaps it is time that someone else said it.
This is not purely a vanity edition, however. It includes two contributions from Terry Weldon – one in his capacity as CSCS webmaster, and one an address on the history of the LGBT movement in the Churches which he gave to Quest some months ago. In some ways the latter, so very encouraging and positive about aspects of our enterprise, parallels my little notes and may equally be of use to local groups. I commend Terry’s blog Queering the Church as another source of news and views about sexuality especially in the LGBT context. And over the past few weeks he has been at the heart of renewed controversy in Roman Catholic circles, as the Soho Masses have been suspended whilst the Church’s commitment to pastoral care of people of all sexual orientations has been re-emphasised.
How that decision illustrates the ambivalence of so many of the Churches towards sexuality! At least there has been a move away from regarding anything other than a marriage-based procreation-friendly vanilla heterosexuality as “intrinsically disordered”, and a recognition that people with other sexual orientations are still, first and foremost, people, with pastoral needs; let us be thankful for small mercies. Yet putting such orientations into practice is still viewed as mortal sin, and what the critics have seen as the creation of a church-within-a-church for those who practice in that way is now to be outlawed. What nonsense – what hurtful nonsense. If ever the continued need for CSCS – to get beneath the superficial theologizing about “the gay thing” to the real issues beneath – was demonstrated, it was here, and now. But we need new blood to carry the torch forward; and so I end this editorial as I began, with challenge and with hope.