Tag Archives: CSCS

AGM 2008: Chair’s Report

REPORT FROM THE CHAIR FOR THE AGM OF CSCS
9TH FEBRUARY 2008

Over the past year, CSCS has struggled to meet its aims of providing opportunities for sexuality to be discussed honestly and openly and to help others in the churches to provide similar opportunities. This has been limited largely to the medium of the CSCS Newsletter and the distribution of the Journal, Theology and Sexuality.
However, your committee has continued to meet quarterly to discuss policy, topics of relevance to our aims and the interests of our membership, items for the Newsletter and finance. In addition to these meetings there has been regular contact and discussion through the medium of email. We are grateful for the generous hospitality of John and Daphne Cook for these meetings and Daphne’s diligent oversight of membership fees and CSCS finances. Anthony Woollard continues to double as minutes secretary and editor of CSCS News. Martin Pendergast keeps us in touch with other networks facing similar concerns to ours and is a valuable link with the Roman Catholic Church.

The two-tier membership subscription introduced last year is working well but neither this development nor other initiatives have been successful in encouraging new members and numbers have therefore remained static. This, combined with the lack of active involvement of members other than those serving on the committee, has led to our opening up a debate on the possibility of re-thinking the future of CSCS as a stand-alone organisation. We launched, in the last Newsletter, the possibility of forming instead a collaborative group of small, radical, Christian organisations concerned to move forward the Church’s thinking on sexuality issues. We were therefore delighted that Christina Rees, a founder member of CSCS and a well-known campaigner in the field of women’s ministry, agreed to address our Annual Conference this year to give us a critical evaluation and personal perspective on CSCS.

We are also grateful for the support and encouragement from our Patrons, The Revd. David Gamble, Co-ordinating Secretary, Legal & Constitutional Practice in the Methodist Church, The Revd. Roberta Rominger, Moderator of the Thames North Synod of the United Reformed Church and The Rt Revd. John Gladwin, Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford. Each has written to comment on our future plans and to express their regret that they were not to be able to attend today. They have sent us their good wishes for this event.

We continue to develop our links with other Christian organisations with agendas that overlap with our aims. Two of our committee members serve on the Council of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union, Anthony Woollard as an elected member and your Chair as a CSCS observer, together with other CSCS members, including Jean Mayland. We maintain links with Inclusive Church to our mutual benefit and their briefing papers and monthly newsletter keep us informed of many issues relating to our aims. Martin Pendergast was actively involved in the LGCM conference on homophobia last year and is also a valuable link with developments in the Catholic Church. Your Chair is active on the General Synod of The Church of England where, as you know, there is a continuing, lively (and sometimes acrimonious) debate on the role of gay clergy in the priesthood and of women in the episcopate. She is also active in raising concern within church congregations on the problem of teenage pregnancy and sexuality issues relating to people with disabilities.

Anthony Woollard continues to play an active role in the production of the CSCS Newsletter, both as commissioning editor and as a stimulating contributor. We are grateful for his oversight of current issues of concern to the membership and his ability to stimulate lively debate among the membership. We have been given an insight into a perspective on sexual surrogate partner therapy by one of our members, David Brown, who has both challenged and stimulated our thinking on the needs of those facing sexual problems and dysfunctions. Another member, Henry Mayor, has updated us on the difficulties facing gay and lesbian Christians in Kenya and what he has achieved in opening up dialogue with members of the Anglican Church in that country. We are also aware of similar work being undertaken by Colin Coward through Changing Attitude – with whom we maintain active links.

Our thanks are due to Daphne Cook, in her capacity as our Treasurer, for drawing up
the end of year accounts for us and for keeping us within our budget. Thanks are also
due to Michael Egan for auditing the accounts.

We are also grateful to Philip Gardner for his continued work on updating the CSCS website despite other pressures on his time and expertise.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the membership who contribute to the aims of
CSCS by encouraging education and informed debate on the issues around
Christianity and sexuality within your church communities and congregation.

The Revd. Canon Jane Fraser

Enhanced by Zemanta

CSCS News 33, Autumn 2007: Editorial

Anthomy Woollard

Some of you may have been wondering about the silence of CSCS over the past six months or more. The reason is that the Committee has been doing some hard thinking. Despite an encouraging AGM reported in the last edition, it has become clear that CSCS cannot carry on without new blood – and no new blood has so far been forthcoming. Your Committee remain in good heart and committed to our objectives, but have all too little time or energy to promote them as separate activities along with all their other involvements in the field. We have some possible plans for 2008 – of which more below – but, unless that new blood is generated by those plans or otherwise, have come to the conclusion that CSCS as such may have only one more year of life.

We have been in existence, first as ISCS – an educational charity associated with LGCM – and then as the independent CSCS, for over fifteen years. This period has coincided with an increasingly lively, and all too often polarised, debate about Christian and sexuality. Inevitably the debate has focused mostly on specific issues such as gay clergy. The battle to accept women and their insights amongst Church leadership has in truth been largely won, though there remain some pretty sizeable pockets of resistance even in those Churches which have accepted them (let alone the huge blind spots in the Roman and Orthodox Churches). The parallel battle for the acceptance of gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered people and their insights is very far from over in almost every denomination.

All too rarely do the protagonists acknowledge the underlying issues. It is true that some of these, such as the nature of Biblical authority, are very basic indeed and themselves a major battleground. Others, however, relating to the nature of sex and sexuality as such within the Christian tradition, seem to have had scarcely any attention. Perhaps at that latter level, also, we have won more battles than we recognise. The Churches’ past image of almost pure negativity and fear of sex seems now to belong to another era, and attitudes to cohabitation and divorce, for example, are a good deal more generous and less dogmatic than they were even twenty or thirty years ago.

Members of CSCS who are active in Christian writing and speaking, from Jack Dominian to Jo Ind, must be thanked for much of that. But is there not still a huge educational task to be undertaken?

Our Chair’s film review, below, illustrates one complex of issues which has nothing to do with homosexuality but touches on profound ethical and spiritual questions too easily swept under the carpet.

The book review, which refers to our member David Brown’s work on sexual surrogate therapy, is another clear case. As it happened, I was re-reading Just Good Friends by Liz Stuart (our former Chair) when I received this. Liz, like Jo Ind, supports the postmodern argument that sexual activities have no fixed meaning but only that meaning which is mutually accepted between the participants. Our view of sexual surrogacy may well depend on how far we can accept that philosophical position. As some of us found a few years back in debate with Bishop John Gladwin (now one of our Patrons), an unreservedly postmodern approach to sexuality may be theologically difficult for many Christians, even liberal ones. But where, outside CSCS, are such discussions taking place? It is true that they occasionally emerge in reports of the Church of England General Synod and the equivalent bodies of other denominations – but usually only by implication, and increasingly in a framework which is conservative and afraid to stray outside the narrow confines of “the plain meaning of Scripture” (as if there were any such thing).

The pages of this Newsletter have often contained accounts of how new ideas, and evidence from the natural and social sciences and from experience – not least the contributions of CSCS and its members – have been hijacked by narrow traditionalism. There would seem still to be an urgent need for the liberal/radical dimensions of the sexuality debate, as such, to be given voice in Christian circles. If one batters one’s head against a wall long enough, perhaps one might make a dent in the wall, assuming that the head can stand the battering.

From the outset CSCS had to struggle, in this context, with exactly what its role was and how it should be pursued. In the early days, when we benefited so much from the paid executive contribution of Alison Webster, much emphasis was placed on academic work. That helped to support the rise, under Liz Stuart’s leadership, of the journal Theology and Sexuality, which has now thoroughly come of age and has little direct connection with us, though it has remained a welcome and economical way for CSCS members to keep in touch with academic thinking. The impact of that academic work cannot easily be measured, and one cannot help suspecting sometimes that it is a little limited outside the circles of the academy, at least in the UK. That may be unfair. Perhaps its influence, and that of CSCS generally, on our Anglican episcopal members – Peter Selby and more recently John Gladwin – has had some modest significance, though it has certainly not saved that Church from its agonising about sexual issues. Perhaps something of the same is true with our range of contacts in the Roman Catholic Church and in some other denominations. But the fruits of the academic work are not all that immediately evident. And attempts to develop and disseminate more popular educational material on behalf of CSCS were sadly less successful than the promotion of the journal.

Latterly, under the chairmanship first of Andrew Yip and most recently of Jane Fraser, the emphasis has been more on the practical, with Committee members drawn mainly from those who are engaged in what might be described as pastoral work with the casualties of the Churches’ sexual confusion. (Questions about sexuality in a postmodern age are not just academic, they are profoundly pastoral, as the “surrogacy” issue demonstrates.) At the same time, other groups, both existing ones such as the Modern Churchpeople’s Union and new ones like Inclusive Church, have deepened their concern for those casualties, and made it more intellectually and pastorally respectable to take a liberal Christian stance on sexuality as well as other matters. The CSCS participation (together with the Student Christian Movement) in the MCU’s 2006 conference “A Passion for Justice” on sexual issues was surely the high point in our recent history; but the conference was essentially MCU-driven, and, because of that, attracted far greater numbers than we have ever commanded even in our early days.

Is there still, then, a place for CSCS, alongside the groups promoting Christian liberalism and inclusivity generally on the one hand and the more focused campaigning groups like LGCM on the other? Some of us still feel that there ought to be such a place. Many people, both gay and straight struggle with sexual/spiritual issues which may have little directly to do either with Christian liberalism generally or with the specific topics of current Church debates. The film and book reviews in this Newsletter illustrate that. And surely these are areas where CSCS is needed to contribute a liberal Christian voice.

But it is all very well for us to believe that. As any economist will tell you, a need which is not translated into effective demand might as well not exist. And there has been little effective demand for our work. We get only a very few requests to speak, or otherwise contribute to debate, on behalf of CSCS as such. The world of theological education has shown no interest whatever in our approaches. We have lost quite a few members over the years – often, it would seem, because of their increasing commitments elsewhere in the same or similar fields – and there is a bare trickle of new ones. Do we fall between too many stools? Are we too academic or even precious for some not academic enough for others? Are we too broad in our approach to help the struggling gay priest, too narrow for the anti-fundamentalist campaigner? Is there, in fact, a real middle ground left, within which our objectives are meaningful?

Many of our continuing members, it is true, are contributing significantly to those objectives in other arenas. The material from ICASA gives one example, and the final contribution to this Newsletter gives another, taking up the story of Henry Mayor’s attempts to engage the Church of Uganda in dialogue about gay issues which we featured in a previous edition.

We may hope that such members have valued our support over the years. Yet they make few demands on us – and even fewer offers of help. Appeals for new Committee members, in particular, have fallen on deaf ears.

Perhaps we have deluded ourselves about the need – or perhaps it is being met by others in better ways. In either case, it would be pointless arrogance and a waste of energy to try to keep the show on the road just for the sake of it.

Yet we do not intend to go quietly. We plan, in 2008, to undertake a major dialogue with as many as possible of the other bodies concerned with issues of faith, sexuality and justice, to see how their efforts can best be co-ordinated. We hope that this dialogue will begin with our Annual Conference and AGM on 9 February in central London, when Christina Rees, a well-known Anglican campaigner principally in the field of women’s ministry (and member of CSCS), will be our keynote speaker The letter from our Chair, below, sets out those plans in more detail.

Out of that dialogue may spring something quite new. There could, after all, be a continuing role for CSCS, though that will only be possible with new blood, since the Chair and Treasurer are in any event stepping down in 2009. Or we may find that some other body, or confederation of bodies, could most appropriately be entrusted with our mission.
We therefore look to you, the membership, for three things.

First, to attend the Annual Conference and AGM, of which further details will be available shortly. Second, to let us have details of organisations with which we should be in dialogue – and your views on the way ahead. Last but not least, to consider once again, thoughtfully and prayerfully, just how much you value CSCS, and whether you are prepared to back your convictions by serving on the Committee. It really is up to you now.

Anthony Woollard

Enhanced by Zemanta

AGM 2007: Chair’s Report

REPORT FROM THE CHAIR FOR THE AGM OF CSCS
10 TH FEBRUARY 2007

CSCS has continued to meet its aims of providing opportunities for sexuality to be discussed honestly and openly and to help others in the churches to provide similar opportunities. This has been achieved through the medium of the CSCS Newsletter, through contacts with other Christian bodies and conferences/workshops. This process has been steered along the way by the commitment and energy of its committee members who have continued to meet quarterly to discuss policy, topics of relevance to our aims and the interests of our membership, items for the Newsletter and finance. In addition to these meetings there has been regular contact and discussion through the medium of email. The committee is a small but energetic and committed group who would welcome additional support from other members to invigorate our planning for and organisation of CSCS. We are grateful for the generous hospitality of John and Daphne Cook for these meetings and Daphne’s diligent oversight of membership fees and CSCS finances. We were sorry to lose Colin Coward from the Committee due to his increased commitments with Changing Attitude but we continue to ‘keep him in the loop’ and draw on his contacts and expertise. Anthony Woollard continues to double as minutes secretary and editor of CSCS News. Martin Pendergast has enriched our understanding of sexuality issues and concerns within the Roman Catholic Church and we continue to marvel at the extent and breadth of his range of contacts – both within and outside the churches.

The introduced a two-tier membership subscription seems to have been successful in enabling some members to remain involved with CSCS without the additional payment for Theology and Sexuality. Membership numbers, since releasing those who had ceased to pay an annual subscription, have remained broadly static, but we continue to get a trickle of new members. The majority of current members have chosen to receive the newsletter three times a year and the journal Theology and Sexuality. Sage Publications have agreed to keep the subscription to the journal at the same rate as last year. Anthony Woollard continues to play an active role in the production of the CSCS Newsletter, both as commissioning editor and as a stimulating contributor. We are grateful for his oversight of current issues of concern to the membership and his ability to stimulate lively debate among the membership. We look forward to receiving contributions from two of our Patrons, The Revd. David Gamble, Co-ordinating Secretary, Legal & Constitutional Practice in the Methodist Church and The Revd. Roberta Rominger, Moderator of the Thames North Synod of the United Reformed Church. We value the continuing commitment of The Rt Revd. John Gladwin to the aims of CSCS which is reflected in his willingness to contribute to our Annual Conference today. Both David Gamble and Roberta Rominger were extremely disappointed not to be able to attend today and have sent us their good wishes for this event. We continue to develop our links with other Christian organisations with agendas that overlap with our aims. Colin Coward is our main link with Changing Attitude and will be travelling to Africa to attend the meeting of Primates where one of the main agenda items is the subject of the Church’s position on gay clergy. Three of our committee members serve on the Council of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union, Anthony Woollard and Jean Mayland as elected members and your Chair as a CSCS observer, together with two other CSCS members. The annual, residential conference of MCU last summer was a joint enterprise with CSCS and SCM and was extremely successful, generating a surplus of £300 to CSCS funds. We also maintain links with Inclusive Church and LGCM to our mutual benefit. Martin Pendergast has been actively involved in the LGCM conference on homophobia, which takes place later this month. Your Chair is active on the General Synod of The Church of England where, as you know, there is a continuing, lively (and sometimes acrimonious) debate on the role of gay clergy in the priesthood and of women in the episcopate. She is also active in raising concern within church congregations on the problem of teenage pregnancy and has started to organise conferences on this topic with funding from the Teenage Pregnancy Units in the Midlands. As an experienced trainer, she has run a workshop on sexuality education with church and youth work funding and plans to continue this work.

Lat year we circulated the CSCS Newsletter to Theological colleges and seminaries as an
experiment to stimulate interest in CSCS and its aims but this was not successful in its aim.

We are grateful to Philip Gardner for his continued work on updating the CSCS website despite other pressures on his time and expertise.

In the meantime, our thanks are due to Daphne Cook, in her capacity as our Treasurer, for
drawing up the end of year accounts for us and for keeping us within our budget. Thanks are also due to Michael Egan for auditing the accounts.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the membership who contribute to the aims of CSCS by encouraging education and informed debate on the issues around Christianity and sexuality within your church communities and congregation.

The Revd. Canon Jane Fraser
Chair of CSCS

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

AGM 2006: Minutes

MINUTES OF ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

HELD AT ST JOHN’S
CHURCH, WATERLOO, LONDON, ON 11 FEBRUARY 2006

Present: Jane Fraser (Chair), Anthony Woollard, Martin Pendergast, Daphne Cook, John Cook, Tony Crowe, Jenny Clark, John Blowers, Mike Dark, Hazel Barkham, Catherine van Ruhland, Derek Reeve

1. Apologies
Apologies were received from Colin Coward, Jean Mayland, Mike Egan and Roy Parr.

2. Minutes of last meeting
The minutes of the meeting held on 12 February 2005 were agreed as a correct record.

3. Matters arising: Theology and Sexuality
It was reported that the journal had been sold by Continuum to Sage Publications, without the knowledge of CSCS, but that Sage had confirmed the policy of the previous publishers to increase to 3 issues per year, with a continuing substantial discount to CSCS for at least one year. It was suggested that the publishers ought to be encouraged to widen the range of outlets at which the journal was available, though it was recognised that it was mainly aimed at an academic market.

 4. Report from the Chair
The Chair circulated her report, a copy of which is attached to these minutes. In discussion the following points were made:
• It appeared that membership remained around the 100 mark, though some members in arrears had been “weeded out” and a number appeared to prefer the option of a basic subscription without the journal.
• It could be argued that CSCS had fulfilled its mission in raising the debate about sexuality in the Churches, and that its separate existence was now in question.  Many CSCS members already belonged to other cognate organisations, and some were evidently cutting down on their overlapping memberships and did not appear to prioritise CSCS. Against that, it was argued that discussion in the Churches at present was confined largely to specific issues, notably homosexuality, and that there were much more basic questions about sexuality and the Gospel, and other specific issues such as singleness, gender dysphoria and teenage pregnancy, on which debate needed still to be encouraged. CSCS remained the only ecumenical organisation devoted specifically to the sexuality debate in all its aspects, and, because of that fact, the Chair and others continued to be approached from time to time to contribute to aspects of that debate in various groups. Moreover, despite the very modest attendance at most Annual Conferences and AGMs in recent years, the fact that at least 10% of the membership normally turned out should be
taken as a respectable expression of continuing interest. It was agreed that the future of CSCS should be reviewed further in the light of current approaches to theological training institutions and the outcome of the summer residential conference.

5. Treasurer’s Report
The Treasurer circulated her report, a copy of which is available on request. She noted that in cash terms CSCS had ended the year with a deficit of £70, but that a further bill for the journal, of about £1,100, remained to be paid at the year’s end. Some 2006 subscriptions had been paid in advance. Part of the deficit resulted from the cost of circulating the newsletter to theological colleges. In addition, Gift Aid tax rebate for 2005, expected to be over £400, had not yet been claimed and would be added to the 2006 accounts. The true deficit was therefore of the order of £700-800, and it was hoped to reduce this in 2006 by the reduction in the number of journals taken and by a review of the theological college contacts and of newsletter circulation generally. In discussion the following points were made:

  • It would be helpful to publicise that CSCS used an “ethical” banker namely the Co–operative Bank.
  • The website had been reviewed and updated; in the past this had been a vital source of new recruits but it was essential that it be kept up to date. All present were invited to view the website and send comments to the Chair as soon as possible.

Acceptance of the Report was proposed by Tony Crowe, seconded by Jenny Clark, and agreed unanimously.

6. Elections
The Chair explained that David Brown, elected last year as Secretary, had felt unable to continue due to other commitments and that Colin Coward had similarly felt obliged to resign. A Secretary was urgently needed and, in the absence of nominations at the meeting, the Committee would hope to co-opt someone.
In the absence of further nominations, the following were proposed by Derek Reeve, seconded by Tony Crowe, and elected unanimously:
Jane Fraser (Chair)
John Cook
Daphne Cook (Treasurer)
Jean Mayland
Martin Pendergast
Anthony Woollard

7. Appointment of examiner of accounts
It was proposed from the Chair and unanimously agreed that Mike Egan should once again be appointed.

8. Subscriptions
The Chair drew attention to the emergency motion passed by the Committee in the Autumn, namely that, in the light of the new journal price, subscriptions for 2006 should be set at £40 for those taking the journal and £15 for others, with a subscription of £55 for two members at one address taking the journal, and overseas subscriptions and other special cases to be adjusted pro rata.
The endorsement of this decision was proposed by Jenny Clark, seconded by Tony Crowe, and agreed unanimously.
The feeling of the meeting was that £40 should be viewed as a maximum, and that, in the event of the publishers putting up the price of the journal to members for 2007, CSCS should cease its link with the journal.

9. Any other business

  • The Chair drew attention to the joint residential conference with MCU and SCM in the second week in July, and to the 30th anniversary celebrations of LGCM in Cardiff in April.
  • The newsletter editor appealed for contributions, particularly reactions to the Annual Conference, and for book reviewers.
  • It was suggested that the newsletter should include a strapline giving the full nameof the organisation.

10. Date of next meeting:

10 February 2007.

Enhanced by Zemanta

From the Chair (Spring Conference, Membership and Subscriptions)

Jane Fraser

An ecumenical theme to our Spring Conference – A Dialogue between the Churches on Sexuality Issues

Plans are at an advanced stage for our AGM and Spring Conference to be held on Saturday 11th February 2006 at St John’s Church, Waterloo. Please see the enclosed publicity flyer and complete the booking form as soon as possible if you are able to join us for this extremely interesting event.

The decision to hold it in London this year has meant that we have been able to invite our Patrons and Matron to attend and contribute to the theme that was agreed at the last AGM. At that meeting, members asked for an ecumenical perspective on current issues around sexuality and we are delighted that The Revd. Roberta Rominger (URC) and The Rt. Revd. John Gladwin (Anglican) have accepted our invitation to respond to your request. Unfortunately, The Revd. David Gamble (Methodist) is unable to attend due to prior commitments that he has been unable to change. However, we are confident that we will be able to offer you two further highly respected speakers who will challenge us on a Methodist and a Roman Catholic perspective. A residential conference in collaboration with The Modern Churchpeople’s Union For the last three years, CSCS has had observer status on the Council of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union. This has reflected our common stance on Christianity and Sexuality and is now to be reflected in a more tangible way through this year’s annual residential conference entitled ‘Passion for Justice’. This is to be held at the High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddeston, Hertfordshire from 11th to 14th July 2006. You will have received a flyer inserted in the last CSCS Newsletter. It is to be chaired by Professor Elaine Graham, who spoke so compellingly at our last CSCS Annual Conference in Birmingham and there are some exciting contributors on themes around human sexuality. It is proving to be a popular event, so if you would like to attend and haven’t completed a booking form, please do so as soon as possible. If you’ve lost your conference flyer, do let me know and I’ll send you another! We hope that this event will give CSCS a broader platform and welcome publicity. Publicity about the event has gone out to theological colleges and seminaries and through the Student Christian Movement. In this way we hope to attract younger Christians concerned about this aspect of their faith.

Consolidating membership lists and subscription rates

I would like to thank all those of you who have responded to Daphne Cook’s letter and indicated to us your wishes regarding the option to continue (or not, as the case might be) receiving Theology and Sexuality but at a slightly increased rate to reflect the fact that it is now published three times a year. Some of you have indicated that you wish to continue as members of CSCS without subscribing to Theology and Sexuality. Our membership list has been amended to reflect these changes and the names of those who have not responded to our correspondence over the last year have been deleted.  At the last CSCS Committee meeting, an executive decision was made to clarify the subscription rates for the year 2006, as follows:

 “In view of current uncertainties about CSCS membership and publications costs, the Committee as an emergency action agrees that the subscriptions from 1 January 2006 should be £40 where Theology and Sexuality is required and £15 in other cases. Where two members at one address ask to receive Theology and Sexuality, one copy shall normally be sent to that address and the combined subscription shall be £40+15. Overseas subscriptions and any other special cases shall be adjusted pro rata. The membership shall be invited to endorse this emergency action at the Annual General Meeting to be held on 11 February 2006.”

As you see, we shall be asking you to endorse this decision at the AGM. I look forward
to seeing you there!

Jane Fraser

Enhanced by Zemanta

CSCS and Sexual Healing

David Brown

Just over four years ago, a young man came to see me in my professional capacity as a sexual therapist. He was suffering from depression, sexual dysfunction and social isolation. Recognising that his primary needs were deeper rooted than purely the sexual and social level, I counselled him to discover God’s Love and to open himself to the potential that his life held for him if he made the shift to finding his Real Self; the immortal, indestructible soul within which is not separate and isolated from the Source of Love and Life. He took my words to heart and, over the next few months, and with the help of books, tapes, “God TV” and well-meaning Christian people he “became a Christian”. Recently, almost five years later, he telephoned me in confusion. In effect, he has been told by his pastor and the other members of his church, that any sexual thought, word or deed (other than sex within traditional marriage) is sinful and must be avoided at all cost.

Masturbation is sinful because, they have told him, he would need to be thinking sexual thoughts in order to get an erection suitable for masturbation and that the sexual thoughts were contravening Jesus’ warning regarding “adultery in the mind”. The young man, desperate to alleviate his depression and isolation through practicing Christianity, is still depressed and sexually and socially isolated but is now also confused, sexually repressed and frustrated.

I find myself wondering why the Christian Church seems to be so preoccupied by issues such as sex outside marriage, homosexuality, etc. when they cannot even come to terms with the concept of self pleasuring when one is alone with one’s Self. Where do they get this repressive doctrine of abstention from masturbation? Is it from the Bible? What scriptural reference would be quoted; a misinterpretation of Onan spilling his seed, perhaps? Masturbation in itself is not sinful, nor harmful. What is harmful is the mistaken belief about what sexuality is and our relationship to our own human sexuality that society has projected, and the Christian religion has bought into. It is this incomplete and erroneous perception of where the source of sexuality, sexual arousal and sexual control comes from that lowers our consciousness of the place of the Divine in intimacy. The Church would do better to stop debating the ethics of who we are having sex with, or where or when, and start re-discovering that it is the kind of sex that is being engaged in that is the important spiritual issue that differentiates between the sacred and the profane.

There are primarily two distinct approaches to intimacy and sexuality; one is the “Outside-In”approach and the other is the “Inside-Out” approach. The “Outside-In” is fundamentally masculine in model and therefore the resultant sexuality is measured by performance and goals. This style of sexuality depends upon mental fantasy or stimulation to achieve an end result. The hope is that, in some cases, the fulfilment will reach the “Inside” of the participants but, in reality, it rarely does The other approach to the sexual relationship is the “Inside-Out” approach, which is usually stereotyped as the feminine way, but is actually the naturally created, God-designed approach. “Inside-Out” sexuality starts on the inside, with the Real Self, and involves rather than being validated by the physical body. The “Inside-Out” approach is built upon spirituality and authenticity; the power is connection. This is the intimacy which God created all human beings to be capable of expressing. Fulfilment in the “Inside-Out” approach to sexuality leads the partners closer to a consciousness and an experience of God, rather than into conflict with Him / Her

Why does Christianity produce such sexually repressed children? One reason is that it may be afraid to re-evaluate a history of patriarchal abuse and denial of the Feminine aspect of the Divine and of women and female sexuality in general. The experiential affect of Christians allowing God to become The Source of All, both masculine and feminine in energy, would be massive and would pave the way for unity of fellowship with all religions and faiths as well as restoring sexuality to its rightful place as a true gift of God to all mankind. In that process of re-evaluation of gender theology, however, Christian leaders would also have to admit that they, themselves, might not know how to make love without it being performance centred. Others may have to open themselves to the concept of teaching their congregations the positive aspects of sexuality, and would realise their insufficiency. Some ministers may feel totally inadequate with the prospect of needing being more like a real father to their flock rather than hiding behind the role of teacher, priest and guru.

Spiritual sexuality requires openness, self appraisal and self awareness; to recognise vulnerability as being a character strength, which is attractive, rather than as a weakness. Others may have to open themselves to the need to counselling individuals and couples within their congregations in matters about which they have little personal knowledge. It is distinctly possible that some church ministers and leaders may have to face the personal difficulties within their own marriage or relationship that they can otherwise pretend does not exist.

It seems to be asking rather a lot of a religion which has built a dogma of sexual control and prohibition in the name of righteousness for fifteen hundred years; this change may take the next fifteen hundred years to effect. In the short term, the answer may be for some specialised Christian Ministries, rather than the whole Christian Church, to provide a lead and to offer help to the churches or to their members in the area of spiritual sexuality. Such help could be offered by way of seminars, workshops and individual counselling and teaching. Could this be an area where CSCS could become something other than another voice that sometimes appears to be trying to persuade or argue the same theological chestnuts with the same theologians as have already been polarised for as long as any of us can remember?

I attended the last annual CSCS Conference and, while being delighted to meet others there and to listen to an admirable talk in the morning session, I left feeling a little empty. Who are we as CSCS trying to reach? What is our aim? Are we simply here to represent a balancing view on the repressive views of the Church in respect to same sex relationships; a voice calling in the wilderness? If so, what of the countless ordinary people in church pews, and those who are not in the pews but are nevertheless searching for Reality in a Christian country; many who are sexually dysfunctional or repressed or even suicidal for lack of positive help and guidance.

If the scriptures are intended to reflect the context of our contemporary culture, it is possible that Jesus may actually wish to add to the list of omissions of which the “goats” were guilty: “Lord, when was it that I saw you isolated and in despair or divorced or broken, and did not help or accept you in your need?’ Then the ruler will answer them, “Just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me”.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta