The newsletter of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality
CSCS is a charity (no 1070448) registered by the Charity Commission of England and Wales
- Editorial (Anthony Woollard)
- Sexual and gender issues in the Church of England: three notes (Anthony Woollard)
- “Blessed Are the Queer in Faith”: 60 years into a modern resurrection for queer Christians. (Terry Weldon)
- A Poem,Calling”(or how to internalize oppression) (Heather Barfoot)
- Introducing the new CSCS Website (Terry Weldon)
- Upcoming conference: INTERSEX, THEOLOGY AND THE BIBLE
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.
Before getting into the topic of gay marriage we first have to ask whether gay relationships in any form can ever be right or good. There is no getting away from the fact that the tiny handful of direct references to homosexuality in Scripture are pretty condemnatory. On the other hand, Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, condemns many other things – from lending out money at interest, to eating pork, to wearing clothes with mixed fibres – and we don’t necessarily regard those condemnations as binding today. So why is homosexuality different?
Many people, religious or not, would still see homosexuality as unnatural; surely men and women are meant, or have evolved, to mate with each other and not with their own sex, primarily in order to produce children. Yet something like what we call homosexuality occurs fairly widely in nature. It is no more unnatural in a literal sense than, say, left-handedness. And it may be worth remembering that left-handed people – “sinister” people in Latin – have also at times been regarded as unnatural, and persecuted.
For most of history, in many cultures, gay people have been regarded as things of horror and pushed to the margins of society, not allowed to form public relationships. The writers of Scripture could not have known what we now know – that gay people can enter into loving, stable, productive relationships and play a part in the mainstream of society.
We must avoid looking at a few texts in isolation. A very wise Evangelical used to say “A text without its context is just a pretext”. And the context in which we look at this question has to include, not only the huge cultural changes since Biblical times, but also and most importantly the teachings of Jesus. I think of two sayings in particular. “I am come that they might have life in all its fullness” – and for me, “they” must include all humanity, gay as well as straight. And “by their fruits you shall know them”. I know a number of gay Christians and cannot in my deepest conscience deny that the fruits of the Spirit are obvious in them – not in spite of their gayness but perhaps even because of it.
So what about gay marriage? Gay people have been granted civil partnerships. In some churches, though not alas the Church of England yet – at least not officially – those partnerships can be separately blessed. So why insist on marriage? Isn’t this just those pesky gays demanding absolute equality with “us” straight people? (I use the us and them language deliberately, but of course it’s not Christian.)
It depends on what you mean by marriage. Is it inherently about the creation of a new family through the mating of two people of opposite sexes? I know some gay Christians who would agree with that. I know others for whom the concept of marriage carries too much baggage to be seen as a partnership of equals. But equally I know some who are hurting deeply because they feel excluded from an institution which they see as basic to society and affirms everything they want to affirm. I think of Sharon, a pastor in the Metropolitan Community Church which ministers mostly to gays, and her partner Franka. I know how much this means to them.
By their fruits you shall know them. I am come that they might have life in all its fullness. For me, the fundamental teachings of Jesus have to be determinative in deciding issues like this. Certainly, if gay marriage were introduced, the nature of marriage as a concept would be changed. But it has constantly been changing. If you don’t believe me, read Jane Austen! In many ways I am agnostic about gay marriage, but I simply have to hear the hurt of my friends Sharon and Franka and thousands like them.
St Peter in Acts chapter 10 was faced with a very irregular and unnatural situation, when a group of Gentiles – outsiders who were banned from membership of God’s people – responded to the Gospel of Jesus and showed signs of being possessed by the Holy Spirit. This wasn’t meant to happen in Peter’s world! And he was forced to ask “Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as much as we have?” I equally find myself forced to ask “Could anyone refuse the sacrament of marriage to Sharon and Franka?”
Marriage and cohabitation, and does it matter?
What do we mean by marriage? We may think of it as a very defined legal and perhaps religious status based on a once-for-all ceremony without which you aren’t married. It didn’t mean that in this country until the Hardwicke Act of the mid-18th century. Before that a lot of “marriages” were much more informal – they might start with betrothal or even with pregnancy, and were often tied up (literally) with dowries. In other cultures, there has been even more variation (see Duncan Dormor, Just Cohabiting?)
There is a lot of teaching about marriage in the Bible – and also a great deal which has been read into that teaching and elaborated it. Marriage, we are told, is meant to be exclusive – one on one, forsaking all others. It is meant to be for life, entered into unconditionally. It is the only safe framework for a sexual relationship, and certainly the only proper framework for the upbringing of children. Interestingly, there is nothing in there about licenses or ceremonies, let alone bridesmaids or confetti. So the question “what makes a marriage a marriage” is left rather open.
At its best, the Christian vision of marriage is very wonderful. At its worst, it can be just too much for sinful human beings to bear. In the form we know it, it is a huge package, a very big deal both for individuals and for society, and it is understandable why some people are nervous about it.
Various developments in society have led to a questioning of formal marriage as the only way for people to get together in a relationship.
One of them relates to the position of women. A favourite feminist saying goes like this: In marriage two people become one person – and that person is the husband. If you read some of the great Biblical passages on marriage, from Genesis to Ephesians, it is very easy to come to that conclusion. Marriage can be seen as potentially crushing individuality, particularly for women. There are other passages in Scripture which suggest that this cannot possibly be a true understanding of God’s purposes. But the direct teaching of Scripture on marriage can be, and has been, used in this way. Now we have come to re-evaluate the place of women, and this, I believe, is of God.
Our attitude to love and sex has also changed. The development of pretty reliable contraception is one factor here. But there is also, for better or worse, a greater emphasis than ever before on individual self-fulfilment; that leads amongst other things to the idea that a relationship between two individuals is their business and no-one else’s. I don’t think that can be fully true, as a matter of fact or of Christian teaching; but I do think it may be a necessary corrective to a sort of Fascism in which the individual and her needs is completely subjected to society.
And related to all that, our attitude to families has changed. I mentioned Jane Austen last week. It’s not so long ago, that amongst the upper classes at least marriage was heavily about things like property and handing it on through the generations, and links between families, and making sure that women were financially secure. It may be good that we are less obsessed today about family, its preservation and its prosperity. I would argue that some old-fashioned family values have been used for a sort of extended selfishness – my family right or wrong, and the rest of society can go hang. Some of this is still part of the baggage that is experienced by those who have doubts about traditional marriage.
We know that a majority of cohabiting relationships today are not, in a legal sense, marriages. In very many cases they are a stage on the way to formal marriage, and the church report Something to Celebrate suggested that these should be at least accepted and preferably honoured. In other cases they are an alternative to formal marriage, and there may be many reasons for this; I believe we should not judge, but, again, celebrate wherever faithful love is found.
So: does marriage matter? In one sense, obviously, yes; it is as much part of the framework of mainstream society as it ever was, and above all so where children are involved. In another sense, surely what matters is the integrity of relationships. Love and faithfulness are important, and hard, but if some people in our flawed world find these outside marriage, they may actually be helping to challenge the misuse to which the ideas behind conventional marriage have often been put.
Can the Anglican Communion survive?
We’ve been looking in this series at some of the issues which divide Christians – including Anglicans – relating to sexual matters. We have seen over the past decade huge tensions between the broadly liberal Anglican churches of North America and more conservative provinces elsewhere. We’ve had the debate about a possible “Anglican Covenant” which was intended to put pressure on those parts of the Communion which are seen by others as going out on a limb doctrinally. It’s all very difficult, and very painful. Can the Anglican Communion survive – and does it matter?
Anglicanism has always been rather unusual amongst Christian denominations in its overt, built-in breadth. Catholics, evangelicals and liberals, plus various combinations of all three, have been present and acknowledged for many centuries, sometimes very uneasy bedfellows and yet somehow “holding together” (to use the title of the Bishop of Coventry’s book on the subject). This goes back to Elizabethan times , when writers like Richard Hooker struggled with the balance in church life between Scripture, tradition and reason – all of them being emphasised by different groups in that fertile society which also gave rise to Shakespeare. Elizabeth I, who famously refused to open a window into men’s souls, needed a church which would hold together the diversity of her people. And that is the genius of Anglicanism. It is also its weakness – but St Paul tells us that God’s power is made perfect in weakness.
Paul also writes very movingly, in both Romans and 1 Corinthians, about diversity in the Body of Christ. He didn’t deny that there might be limits to that – mainly where people were excluding others by their teachings or their behaviour. But the overriding message throughout all his letters is that we should accept one another, in all our diversity, as God in Christ accepts us. And Anglicanism at its best has always modelled that.
I think we have discovered over the past couple of weeks just how much – more than debates about evolution let alone about how many candles on an altar – issues about sex go to the heart of who we are as human beings and how we express that in society. This is both about how we relate to Scripture (and tradition and reason) and how we relate to culture – and how we process all this in our personal experiences. None of this is straightforward, and for most of the participants some very serious matters of truth and justice, as well as equally serious matters of personal identity, are at stake. So maintaining unity is genuinely hard, and we feel that hardness in our guts, more deeply even than all the debates about the nature of resurrection and the place of the sacraments which have stressed out the church in ages past.
But this idea of unity in diversity is at the very heart of the Gospel; not only in Paul, but in so much of what Jesus himself is reported to have said, culminating in that great prayer for unity in John chapter 17. We must go on struggling, under God.
We have said remarkably little in this series so far about divorce. Divorces do happen, not just in marriages but also in other human institutions – including churches. The Reformation was a great divorce, or rather a complex series of divorces. Such events are, at best, necessary evils. Some divisions are already happening. We have seen a small number of clergy and parishes divorcing themselves from the Church of England and remarrying the Church of Rome over the matter of women’s ministry. Some more conservative provinces from elsewhere in the world have established what is called the Anglican Mission in England. As St Paul said, again in 1 Corinthians, such divisions are pretty inevitable and may even be necessary in God’s purposes. We may continue to see some realignments at the margins; some may leave us, some may join us from elsewhere, as happens indeed in the life of Holy Trinity. But I believe we can and must “hold together” at the centre.
Just one final reflection. It comes from the experience of Street Pastors, which of course is not Anglican in origin at all. Recently the national leader of Street Pastors, Les Isaac, himself a black evangelical, issued a statement making plain that Street Pastors was NOT going to oppose gay marriage, because any position on the issue would get in the way of showing the unconditional love of Christ to all on the streets. One or two Street Pastors, elsewhere though not in Stratford, have left the movement as a result. The great majority, whatever their personal views, continue to “hold the centre” in the name of the Gospel. I believe the Church of England and the Anglican Communion can do no less.
This year’s national conference of Quest, the British association for lesbian and gay Catholics, had as its theme “60 Glorious Years”, tying in with Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee year. For my presentation, I took as my title, “Blessed Are the Queer in Faith, for They Shall Inherit the Church”, later adding as a subtitle, “60 Years Into a Modern Resurrection for LGBT Christians”. With the word “resurrection” I was suggesting that by the middle of the last century, the collective body of LGBT Christians had in effect been metaphorically killed off in the name of religious belief. But the past 60 years have seen LGBT Christians move from total invisibility, to substantial progress on the road to full inclusion – the beginning (only a beginning) of a modern resurrection!
The Collective Martyrdom of LGBT Christians
By 1952, just 7 years after the Nazi Pink Holocaust and seven centuries after the Inquisition began to hunt down and burn “sodomites”, it was effectively impossible to be openly gay and Christian – to declare oneself as such, was to announce that one was both a criminal by law, and (supposedly) condemned to eternal hellfire by Scripture.
In the West, sodomy no longer earned the death penalty – but legal penalties could include life imprisonment, or castration (eg Alan Turing, currently widely celebrated for his contribution to computer science, in 1954). Justification was couched in religious language, social penalties included gay bashing, ostracism, career destruction – and often, suicide (including that of Alan Turing)
The persecution in the name of religion continued well into the twentieth century, promoted by the state in some countries, and by individuals and hate groups in others.
Penalties were no longer imposed by the Church – but were often motivated by an insistence that sodomy was the “Sin that cried out to heaven for vengeance”.
And yet – how far we’ve come!
By 2012, things have changed dramatically – at least in some denominations. In just the past few months, one major Christian church has honoured a modern lesbian by declaring her their equivalent of a modern “saint”, and another has unanimously elected an openly gay man as national moderator.
Five Transforming Trends
In attempting to explain how this remarkable transformation has come about, I have identified five distinct but mutually reinforcing and interacting transformative trends that have taken us over the past 60 years from total invisibility, to where we are now: solidly on a path to full LGBT inclusion in church:
- The Discovery of a Rainbow Bible
- LGBT clergy emerging from the closet
- The development of self – ministry & support groups.
- Queer Contributions and Challenges to Theology
- The visibility of queer families.
The Discovery of a Rainbow Bible.
A fundamental reassessment of the scriptural verdict on same – sex relationships. We have, in a sense, discovered or rediscovered a rainbow bible. If the bible really is “good news” for modern people, that must mean good news for all, including queer Christians. Beginning early in our period, a series of scholars have done work to show first, that the “traditional” interpretations of a handful of clobber texts are at best less secure than previously believed, and possibly deeply flawed, possibly even amounting to spiritual harm or “textual abuse”. Others have moved beyond defensive attempts to counter the texts of terror, to uncover and celebrate the vastly more numerous affirmative texts, and to read affirmative interpretations into others.
LGBT clergy emerging from the closet
Ever since Rev Troy Perry responded to his expulsion from Baptist ministry for having had a sexual relationship with a man not by meekly accepting the verdict, but by forming instead a new denomination with an explicit welcome for lesbian and gay Christians, a continuing stream of clergy, and those seeking ordination, have come out, insisting that there is no conflict between their sexuality and their religious faith. Responses from their denominations have differed, from acceptance and accommodation to outright hostility, but several denominations have already made explicit provision to accept openly LGBT clergy, or on course to do so, or accept them informally, in a clerical version of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. The visibility of these queer ministers, in public or in local congregations, makes it much easier for individual Christians to find self-acceptance, and to come out in church themselves.
The development of self – ministry & support groups.
While Troy Perry’s solution for supportive ministry was to found an entirely new denomination, others have formed support groups and ministry structures within mainstream denominations. In the US, Dignity was started by a Catholic priest, originally as a support group for gay Catholic patients in his psychotherapy practice. Similar organizations later followed for Catholics in Australia and the UK, and for just about all other denominations (including Jehovah’s Witnesses), and on all continents. In many Protestant denominations, there has been a parallel movement aimed not at separate support groups, but at getting local congregations to declare themselves “open and affirming”. This development of an expanding base of straight allies has been key to the succession of LGBT support resolutions adopted, or due to be adopted, at various national assemblies – and to the election of queer candidates to leadership positions.
Queer Contributions and Challenges to Theology
From about the mid 1970′s, there has been the emergence of an increasing number of openly gay and lesbian theologians, contributing to mainstream theology in all its variety, but also creating the brand new academic sub disciplines of gay and lesbian theology, and later queer theology. While this remains a minority pursuit, it has developed sufficiently that it now has its own academic journals, shelf space in theological libraries, and academic reviews of the literature to date. In her summary of the development, Elizabeth Stuart identified the origins in the early pioneers emphasising theology drawing strongly on personal experience, then developing into gay liberation theology (especially for men), and into a theology emphasising relationships (especially by lesbians drawing on feminist theology). After discussing the challenge to gay and lesbian theologies presented by the AIDS pandemic, she describes how this led to a shift from gay/lesbian theologies to queer theology. In a later, more exhaustive account of queer theology specifically, Susannah Cornwall describes several “Controversies in Queer Theology”, in which she argues (among other things) that a queer perspective on theology is useful even for heterosexuals such as herself, and that there are many insights from queer theology making valuable contributions to mainstream theology. At the other end of the academic scale, Patrick Cheng’s text “Radical Love” is described as an introductory text book on queer theology for junior college students.
The visibility of queer families.
Ever since Stonewall, gay men and lesbians have been encouraged to come out, declaring their sexuality publicly. Many, growing in confidence from the range of faith – based support groups, revisionist interpretations of the biblical evidence, and the insights from gay/ lesbian or queer theology, have done so in church, as well as in the secular world. With growing social acceptance, people of our community are forming stable relationships and families, and taking their place as families in many congregations. Their increasing visibility, coupled with the expanding availability of legal recognition for same – sex unions, is forcing the churches also to consider ways in which they can celebrate these committed, marriage – like relationships, on a basis of equality and free of discrimination. This is especially so in those denominations which have come to accept the possibility of ordaining openly gay clergy, in partnerships that are committed, faithful and publicly accountable to the community, in a manner comparable to marriage. This requirement is most easily met by providing opportunities for full marriage for all their clergy, gay or straight, without discrimination. It is not surprising then, that while many religious leaders are actively campaigning against marriage equality legislation, some others are actively promoting, or implementing, same – sex marriage, even in church. This is currently available in some denominations and geographic regions, others are likely to approve it in the next few years, and still more are approving arrangements for church blessings of civil unions.
Conclusion: The Modern Resurrection
While many of the features I’ve listed may seem familiar, we tend to be so overwhelmed by the extent of vocal opposition, especially to recognition for marriage and family equality, that we tend to lose sight of just how far we have come. From the perspective of the grand sweep of history, the past 60 years is a short time indeed, and yet progress, from near invisibility, has been remarkable. What is more, we must remember that each of these five trends continues, and they mutually reinforce each other. The process, and further progress to full LGBT inclusion in church, will surely continue. We really are, I submit, 60 years into a modern resurrection for LGBT Christians.
A Poem, “Calling” (or how to internalize oppression) (Heather Barfoot)
With your orientation, you have to be celibate.
In the Bible? Where?
I’m not quite sure.
My parents are still hoping for grandchildren
and Michael (to my parents ‘Lizzi’)
What to do?
Celibacy makes me think
of RC priests.
Well, I could wear skirts.
and Michael wouldn’t be so hurt
and the parents would think it an honourable calling.
(“Sad about the grandchildren though”).
I suppose I’d better start studying.
Well, I won’t be alone,
they say there’s quite a lot of us –
don’t tell the Pope…
Heather Janet Barfoot December 2012
Our new look website is now up and running, and has been for some while. It’s time to introduce our members to the new site, explain the reasons for the redesign, and offer some guidance on how to access and use it.
Why was it necessary?
The original site was first created a long time ago, when website technology was far more primitive than it has since become. Without updating, it had come to look seriously old and tired, when compared with what people have become generally used to, on pretty well all other sites. In addition, the specific technology that was used was poorly suited to cope with the demands wanted for improved usability that your committee was wanting to introduce, for the benefit of our existing members, and to introduce our work to a wider readership.
Adapting the technology has made it necessary to adopt a completely new URL, which could be an inconvenience for those who have become used to the old one and perhaps bookmarked it, but we believe that there are substantial benefits that will soon outweigh the short term inconvenience. If you have bookmarked the old website address, we suggest that you should change it now, to:
What has changed?
The first and most obvious change is simply that of the appearance, to make it brighter and more attractive. See that for yourself, just by going to the site, and having a look. A cosmetic change to the appearance though, is not the most important new feature.
My primary purpose in the new design, was to substantially improve the ease of use, and navigation across the site. To achieve this, there are numerous features built in, whether you are simply browsing, looking for material on a specific topic, or even trying to track down a very specific article that you may have seen previously, but can no longer locate. The primary method of site navigation is now by a hierarchical page structure, listed in a horizontal navigation bar across the top of the page (as before, but with added features). Additional navigation features include a search box, and a system of categories and tags applied to all material. This will improve the efficiency of the search facility, but can also be used by selecting an item from the category listing, or tag cloud, in the right hand side bar. (Not all material has yet been so tagged, but that will improve with time). For more information on site navigation, click on the “Contents” page in the horizontal navigation bar.
An additional important aim, was to create a means for direct reader response, to the site itself, or to any specific content. The new technology allows for direct reader response, by a “comments” box, to any item on the site – whether a specific newsletter article (see below), or a news flash (also, see below). Comments threads also provide the opportunity to respond not only to the original content, but also to the earlier responses of other readers.
The heart of the website, at present, is the publication of newsletter material, as before. For each newsletter, the content has been posted twice – once, as a complete newsletter, which may be read from start to finish, and again, as a series of separate posts for each article therein, to facilitate tagging for the search facilities, and to enable direct reader response to specific articles. The next step in this site redevelopment, will be to introduce a “members’ area”, where there will be content restricted to registered members, and (possibly) where members will be able to initiate private correspondence with other members.
An important further new facility, not previously available, is the use of the website to release major news announcements. These could be our own news, for example, of forthcoming conferences and other events, or pointers to major news developments in the world outside. Examples of how we have done this in recent months, have been for announcements of the Manchester University conference on intersex and faith, and of our own February 2013 conference on transgender and faith, and a post listing news reports from mainstream media about the Church of England Synod’s failure to approve women bishops. This news alert facility will be substantially upgraded, as we move ahead.
Our membership at present is limited. One of my hopes for the redesigned website, is that by making it more accessible to the web search engines (through the system of categories and tags, and some other technical means), we can attract new readers who are not at present CSCS members – but who may be drawn in by the website, and so sign up as members. Early indications are that we are indeed attracting at least some of these potential new members.
To really male the most of these innovations, we need your help. Explore all the features described above – and use the opportunities for feedback, as comments to either the main pages, or to specific posts.
I look forward to hearing from you, and of your responses.
Notice of another upcoming conference
12 March 2013: The University of Manchester
Intersex conditions (sometimes called DSDs) are conditions causing a physical variation from male or female. About 1 in 2500 people has an intersex condition, yet intersex remains an area shrouded in secrecy. Intersex has attracted increasing attention in the humanities and social sciences in recent years, not least because of the controversies surrounding treatment protocols, and the terminology used for these conditions by intersex people and their families, the medical profession, activists and society at large.
However, intersex remains understudied within theology, religion and biblical studies. Little existing work focuses on the importance of spirituality and faith for intersex people and their families, or the implications of intersex for Christian theology, biblical interpretation, church policy, and pastoral care. Theological implications for social understandings of intersex also remain under-examined.
This one-day conference, part of the Intersex, Identity and Disability: Issues for Public Policy, Healthcare and the Church project at the Lincoln Theological Institute, University of Manchester, brings together scholars and activists from Britain, the USA, Australia and South Africa. We ask what difference intersex might make to the way theology and biblical studies (especially in the areas of sex, gender and human sexuality) are done, and what difference insights from theology and biblical studies might make to social and cultural understandings of intersex.
Nathan Carlin (University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, Texas): “Middlesex: A Pastoral Theological Reading.”
Megan K. DeFranza (Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts): “Addressing Intersex in Conservative Christian Contexts: The Use and Limitation of Eunuchs.”
Sally Gross (Director, Intersex South Africa): “Not in God’s Image: Intersex, Social Death and Infanticide.”
Patricia Beattie Jung (Saint Paul School of Theology, Kansas City, Missouri): “Intersex on Earth as It Is in Heaven?”
Stephen Craig Kerry (Charles Darwin University, Australia) – via Skype: “Revisiting ‘Intersex Individuals’ Religiosity and their Journey to Wellbeing’.”
Joseph A. Marchal (Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana): “What Can Lavender Do When the Baby’s Not (Exactly) Pink or Blue?: Contributions from Feminist and Queer Biblical Studies for Intersex Advocacy.”
Respondent: John Hare
Conference Chair: Susannah Cornwall (Lincoln Theological Institute, University of Manchester)
For more information, including abstracts and speakers’ biographies, and details of how to book, see
This Newsletter is produced for CSCS
The Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality
Chair and principal point of contact:
PO Box 24632
LONDON E9 6XF.
Phone: 020 8986 0807.
Next issue in summer 2013 – contributions invited by end-May
Please send any enquiries about/contributions to the Newsletter to:
1 Chestnut Walk
Phone: 01789 204923
 B Bagemihl, Biological Exuberance.
 Savi Hensman, in an article in a recent Inclusive Church newsletter, even suggests a parallel with short-sightedness, and asks about the implications if short-sighted people were morally forced to wear glasses or have corrective operations.
 May be worth noting here that Paul too sees the entry of the Gentiles to the People of God as in a sense “unnatural” (Romans 11:24) just as same-sex relationships are “unnatural” (Romans 1:26)!
 Note here on FORNICATION. Widely condemned in NT. What does it mean? Dictionary definition often suggests all sexual activity outside marriage. These days often translated “sexual immorality” which begs the question of what is immoral! Greek word PORNEIA derived from PORNE, a prostitute. Suggests (cf 1 Corinthians 6) that what is condemned is sexual activity which is commercialised, trivialised and/or exploitative. Not all sex outside marriage, by any means, falls under that condemnation. And not all sex within marriage is free of it.