Tag Archives: Jane Fraser

Service to celebrate 25th Anniversary of Jane Fraser’s ordination

Upton on Severn, June 22nd 2014

Sermon by the Rt Revd John Gladwin 

So Ruth went down to the threshing floor and did just what her mother-in-law had instructed her. When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and he was in a contented mood, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came stealthily and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and there, lying at his feet, was a woman.

Continue reading Service to celebrate 25th Anniversary of Jane Fraser’s ordination

CSCS News, Autumn 2014: Editorial & Contents Guide

Editorial

Anthony Woollard

Shortly after CSCS’ highly successful Embodied Ministry conference at Cuddesdon in July, our sister organisation Modern Church (www.modernchurch.org.uk) held its own conference on Liberal Spirituality.  Unsurprisingly, there was some read-across – certainly in the dramatis personae, with Martyn Percy facilitating both conferences, Emma Percy making a most significant contribution to both (including, at the latter, a memorable talk on breastfeeding as a model of spirituality and ministry), and yet more wise words from Carla Grosch-Miller.  But for me one of the less expected links was the showing of an unusual Swedish film called As it is in Heaven.  It showed how an ailing professional musician took a backwoods church choir to international fame, at the cost of his own life.  There were quite a few (not very explicit) sexual awakenings in the film, including that of a pastor and his wife who came to be confronted by the role of Law in their own lives and the need to rediscover Love.  But it was the moment of the conductor’s death which moved me greatly; as he lay stricken by his fatal heart attack, having just impregnated the girl who loved him, he listened to his choir bringing an international audience to their feet – and died with a smile on his face. Continue reading CSCS News, Autumn 2014: Editorial & Contents Guide

Reflections on a ‘ministry in sex employment’

 I use this description of my Christian ministry advisedly, despite it arising from a parishioner’s mishearing (or misunderstanding?) of the term MSE (or Ministry in Secular Employment in the Church of England). It has, also, a provocative element – the suggestion that, as a priest, I might be employed in one of the world’s oldest professions. The reality is that I am a sex educator, a qualified social worker and experienced counsellor engaged in training and consultancy on sex and relationships education (SRE), specialising in the needs of people with disabilities, and creating and distributing resources to support this work. As a priest, this is, and always has been, the main focus of my ministry.

In a few months’ time I shall celebrate 25 years in this role – and all within the same benefice in the Diocese of Worcester. I thank God that each of the three bishops under whom I have served has been supportive, while being fully aware that my role might be seen as controversial.

Why is the juxtaposition of God and sexuality deemed controversial? Our sexuality lies at the very core of our identity and understanding of who we are – as does our faith in God who created us and affirmed out humanity in the Incarnation.

 Twenty-five years ago I had my doubts that the church would affirm my vocation – not because of my role as an ‘out-Christian’ in my place of work (Brook Advisory Centres, an organisation offering sex advice and services for young people) but because my husband was not a Christian. However, there was an acceptance that I was already being called upon to give a Christian interpretation of the work undertaken by that organisation when some other Christians were vocal in their denial of its compatibility with Christian belief. When I went to be interviewed by the Principal of the School for Ministry for my training for ordination, he was the first to raise the possibility that some might view my work as being incompatible with the Christian faith as, indeed, being a Roman soldier was viewed by the early churches because of the army’s veneration of the gods.

 There has been a huge element of trust involved throughout these 25 years, both on the part of the church in my diocese and on my part, too. At the time of my ordination there was no ministerial template for me to choose from or follow. However hard I looked, I could not find another MSE in this area of work. I had to trust that if this calling was authentic, then the way would become apparent. And, indeed, it did.

 The ‘vicar’ who spoke openly and professionally about sexual issues became widely known through the training work undertaken with teachers, youth workers and health professionals and through the authorship of numerous sex education resources. I became, with Martin Pendergast, one of the Faith Advisors to the Department of Health’s Teenage Pregnancy Advisory Panel. Within the Diocese I was part of a group looking at the theological and pastoral issues surrounding the establishment of a Child Protection policy for our churches and training those with contact with children and vulnerable adults. There were even occasions when I was called upon to support adult victims of clergy abuse where a woman, a priest and someone with sexual counselling skills was called for. I served for a term on General Synod when issues of sexuality and gender were on the agenda – the role of gay and lesbian clergy, and women bishops were to be debated, among other topics related to human sexuality.

 More recently, I have acted as convenor for an initiative of CSCS – the Theological Educators Group. This is an inter-denominational group of theologians in positions of responsibility for educating future church leaders and with a real concern that teaching and spiritual formation should prepare ordinands for the range of sexuality issues that they are likely to face in their ministry. After nearly three years of sharing experience and knowledge, this project is to come to fruition in July 2014 at the two day conference at Ripon College, Cuddesdon entitled ‘Embodied Ministry: Gender, Sexuality and Formation’.

I’m often reminded of the story of Elijah hiding in a cave when fleeing from the wrath of Jezebel (1 Kings:19) when he hears God asking him, “Why are you here?” Elijah’s answer, “Because of my great zeal for the Lord” would not go down too well with many of those with whom I work although it lies at the heart of what I do. For me, as with Elijah, God is often to be found, not in the earthquake or fire but in a “faint murmuring sound”. My presence is sometimes symbolic – affirming the church’s concern for issues of human sexuality. On other occasions I represent access to the ministry of the church to the vast numbers of believers who are not, or not yet, members of a church. This is of particular importance for those who feel themselves excluded from the church because of their sexuality or the nature of a close personal relationship. A colleague who is known and trusted and who speaks openly and with compassion about sexual matters can feel like a breath of fresh air to such troubled souls. This ‘go-between’ role has been evident, too, in my efforts to explain to the church the reality of the secular world I’m engaged in. Of course, it also works the other way when, inevitably, I’m challenged about church teaching and practice on sex and gender issues.

 I’ve seen many changes over this period, not least in the growing acceptance of women priests in the Church of England. Women were first ordained as deacons the year before my ordination and, five years later, we were ordained as priests. The validity of this (still not accepted by some) should be affirmed in the current legislation before General Synod on the consecration of women as bishops. We have still a way to go on the full acceptance of LGBT clergy but an increasing number are registering their relationships in civil partnerships. I hope and pray that another, future generation of ministers in sex employment will take forward the need for the church to engage in a more active and pragmatic way in the social and sexual education of young people – and not just those within our churches.

Jane Fraser

 The Revd Canon Jane Fraser is a Minister in Secular Employment and Dean of NSMs and MSEs in the Diocese of Worcester

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Minutes of AGM, 2013

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of CSCS
Saturday 16th February 2013 
St Annes’ Church, 55 Dean Street,Soho, London W1D 6AF

  1. 1.      Welcome

Members were welcomed by Martin Pendergast (Chair).

  1. 2.      Apologies

Apologies were received from John & Daphne Cook, Mike Egan, Roberta Rominger, Carla Grosch-Miller, and Heather Barfoot.

  1. 3.      Minutes of the previous AGM – 17.3.2012

These were circulated to all present and then signed as a correct record of the meeting. Proposed by Hazel Barkham. .Seconded by Rosie Martin.

  1. 4.      Matters arising

There were no matters not already on the agenda.

  1. 5.      Annual Report

Martin Pendergast gave a summary of the developments over the past year and this was available for all present and is attached to these minutes.

Proposed by Anthony Woollard. Seconded by Jane Fraser

  1. 6.      Financial Report

A report of the financial position of CSCS was given by Colin Hart (Treasurer) and a copy is attached to these minutes. He noted that subscriptions were down slightly this year due perhaps to some new members joining at the end of the year and not being asked to renew again in January. Those who pay via Charity Aid have been prevented from doing so due to problems with the Charity Commission who have withdrawn our charity status due to problems posting our Annual Return. Most members now pay by standing order which is helpful. An anonymous donation last year has enabled us to set up a new website. There was a considerable loss on the conference last year and we aim for this year’s conference to break even thanks to support from Sybils who have funded the speakers. The Theological Educators Project is a cost to CSCS without bringing in any income but as it is nearing completion the committee are not concerned about this and hope members agree. Martin Pendergast is exploring a charitable grant to support the final stage of the Project which will be a conference of theological educators.

Assets of £4,533.36 were confirmed. Hugh Bain asked how much is being set aside to pay for the Theology & Sexuality journal. Colin Hart replied that he had paid for 2010 but 2011 had yet to be invoiced. £800+ was being held for this. The report was accepted. Proposed by Tony Crowe and seconded by Anthony Woollard. There was a vote of thanks to Mike Egan for auditing the accounts and he was unanimously proposed to continue in this role.

  1. 7.      Election of CSCS Committee 2013/2014

Heather Barfoot, Jane Fraser, Colin Hart, Rosie Martin, Michael Moran, Martin Pendergast,

Terence Weldon and Anthony Woollard were willing to stand for re-election.

Proposed by Bernard Lynch and seconded by John Gladwin

  1. 8.      Any Other Business

A question was raised about the official reasons for the delays in publishing the Journal. These were given as the increased number of such journals, open access to papers through libraries, and a reduced number of papers being submitted due to the subject matter not being so topical.

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A Christian response to the abortion dilemma

Jane Fraser

Despite the availability and use of reliable contraception, unintended pregnancies happen outside of marriage as, indeed they happen within it. One in three women in the UK will experience an abortion during their reproductive life. This is not, therefore, a ‘fringe’ issue, either within our churches or outside its doors. Even if it only affects a small number within our Christian communities, it will have touched the lives of many of our families – a sister, cousin, aunt, mother or grandmother, perhaps. It is not surprising, therefore, that since the passing of the Abortion Act in 1967 there have been repeated attempts to repeal or amend the legislation, most of the initiative coming from individuals or groups with a Christian background.

The most recent of these initiatives sought to amend the health and social care bill to guarantee that all counselling of women seeking an abortion would be ‘independent’ of abortion providers. It was based on the premise that providers such as the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Marie Stopes’ clinics have a financial incentive to pressure women into choosing a termination, leaving women feeling rushed and unable to control the process. We may leave aside the most misleading of these assumptions, as they are ‘not-for-profit’ organisations. On the other hand, should Christians be concerned that women facing an unplanned and problem pregnancy might feel rushed or pressurised into a procedure that terminates a life or the potential for life?

As someone who has counselled hundreds of young women attending a young people’s clinic who were facing a problem pregnancy, this is an issue that I have faced with them and alongside them. As a professional social worker and counsellor working in a secular setting and as a Christian, my focus was on the need for this young woman to explore what, for her (and, as far as is possible, the father of the child) was the ‘right’ solution, in the sense of having the greater potential for good. She was also encouraged to grieve for the ideal that she could not realise in her situation and in this way she had the opportunity to learn from and grow within the process of following her decision through. Roughly half of the young women we counselled chose to continue with their problem pregnancy and the rest chose to seek a termination of the pregnancy. Even when this latter group were referred to a clinic providing an abortion service, they would be given further opportunities to review their decision. This ‘non-directive’ approach to counselling is followed by any professionally qualified counsellors working in the private or ‘not-for-profit’ agencies offering abortions.

So what really lies behind the amendment debated by Parliament? And why should we, as Christians, be concerned? If this amendment was passed, it would have opened up the provision of counselling women seeking an abortion to separate, ‘independent’ agencies, adding a further hurdle for such women to seek out and overcome at a time of stress. Bids for such work would come from the network of crisis pregnancy centres closely linked to religious organisations or founded by those various faith groups, whose basic assumption is that abortion is a sin and should be avoided at all costs. Women who are ambivalent about having an abortion receive support and guidance to continue with the pregnancy from those agencies. Those who feel they cannot do so, for whatever reason, are given advice, rather than non-directive counselling. They invariably report that they felt intimidated and were made to feel guilty for their decision, leaving them distressed and no further forward as such agencies would not refer them on to a clinic providing abortions.

There are, however, some church-based agencies in the Midlands and in London that offer non-directive, professional counselling and evidence-based information on all the options available to women facing a problem pregnancy, but these agencies are rare. There are, of course, individual Christians working on a professional basis within secular organisations such as BPAS, Brook and Marie Stopes. Again, they are rare. A woman looking for such help may have the good fortune to encounter them and even find a sympathetic and informed response to any faith based concerns they may have.

Should we not, as Christians, speak openly of the dilemma faced by women coping with a problem pregnancy, rather than deny her the freedom to explore all the options open to her? How might we express the compassion and understanding that Jesus demonstrated, for example, in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery? As in those cases, there was also a man involved who needed to be considered. I can only offer my own thoughts that have been developed in dialogue with other Christians working in this field and those who have looked to me for a Christian perspective on their situation.

If the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for our understanding of how good can come from evil and nothing is too evil that it cannot be redeemed it has a very powerful message for a woman facing a problem pregnancy when, in effect, she ‘cannot do right for doing wrong’. There is no ideal solution, for each solution to the problem falls short of the ideal. Hence she needs to be encouraged to seek what for her seems to have the greater potential for good. I believe she should then be supported by her church community in realising that potential for good.

Freedom of choice lies at the root of this approach and is based in the freedom to choose good or evil that God gave to humanity at our creation as embodied in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is also based on the supreme example of humanity’s freedom of choice in the risk God faced in allowing his people to choose to accept their Messiah or reject him. Christians should not be involved in strategies that misinform those who come to them for guidance or support when facing a potentially life changing situation. Nor should we impose our own beliefs on other people, especially those who are vulnerable because of their need or distress. Rather, we are called to respond with compassion to their dilemma, travel alongside them as they consider options that may challenge our own beliefs and encourage them to seek, with honesty, what for them is a solution to their problem.

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16th Sunday of Trinity

Rev Jane Fraser

A sermon preached in Worcester Cathedral

There have been times over the summer months when I’ve hardly dared open the newspaper in the morning for fear of what new, headline-grabbing piece I might find on the subject of women bishops or the role of gay clergy within the Church of England. And you’ll be as aware as I am that the underlying theme has not been,  “See how these Christians love one another,” but an almost gleeful, “See how they love to hate one another!”

On the one hand we have those with a more conservative Christian approach to these matters saying, “They’re trying to make it impossible for us to stay,” and on the other hand we have those with a more liberal Christian approach saying, “We don’t want you to leave or to be part of a separate structure within the church.”

And it’s not just the Archbishop of Canterbury who despairs for the future health and
mission of the Church of England!

But let me tell you of another side to all this.

One of the women priests in this diocese decided to invite a few male clergy, known to be opposed to the priesting of women, to an informal lunch. Over a very nice meal (she’s a bit of a ‘foodie’) they each talked about their ministry and its impact on their lives and agreed to meet again – for a very nice lunch. As they got to know each other and their shared interests and vocations (apart from good food), their differences began to seem less important than their common enthusiasm to serve Christ and his church according to their understanding of their vocation. I won’t say that all were converted to the cause of women as priests, but a mutual respect for each other’s ministry was firmly established and some misconceptions demolished.

And there’s another story.

My husband and I had got to know some friends from Canada who we’d met a couple of times on holiday and I’d maintained a lively correspondence with them since. When they were in England last month we invited them over to have a meal with us. Having shared some stories about bringing up teenagers and how, thank God, they eventually grow out of this syndrome, they then told us of their sorrow at finding first one and then the other daughter had ‘come out’ as lesbian and one was now living with her partner. Knowing that I was a priest (and they, too, were Anglicans), I was asked if I would ever conduct a ‘Gay Marriage’ as they called it. Now, although the Anglican Church in Canada has sanctioned the blessing of same sex unions, I was aware that this wasn’t universally accepted over there but I explained the position within the Church of England, which is different. And, possibly fired up by the odd glass of wine, I added my own exposition of the parallels to be seen with our Christian approach to the faithful, exclusive, life-long vows to be made in Christian marriage and how this is reflected in God’s covenant with his church.

At this point I became aware of the look of surprise on the faces of our guests. Clearly, this was not what they had expected to hear! It was also clear that they’d not heard another priest say something affirming of their daughters’ relationships or the potential for commitment and faithfulness within those relationships – and I was afraid I’d put my foot in it. Fortunately, that was not the case and, since then, I’m aware of a dialogue having been opened up between these parents and their daughters on a different level from that of disappointment and disapproval. The Spirit moves in mysterious ways!

These stories, and the Bible readings we’ve just heard all illustrate the basic Christian belief that we must be people who do not create barriers that isolate people from each other but, rather, build bridges between them. This is particularly true in the area of reconciliation, where we must seek to get beyond past hurts, difficulties and differences of belief and opinion and move toward a more positive, Christ-like attitude in our relationships with those we encounter on a daily basis.

In our gospel reading, Jesus gives instructions to his disciples about the proper methods for seeking reconciliation. OK, this does seems a bit legalistic in the way it sets out specific ways of proceeding if a first attempt at reconciliation isn’t successful. Also, and this is a point that we might find difficult to swallow, Jesus goes on to say that if someone goes as far as to ignore what the church is suggesting, then he or she should be treated as a Gentile or a tax collector. In other words, if we can’t achieve reconciliation, this person should be treated as one outside the community of Israel.

There’s a pattern of behaviour we often encounter in the counselling role that goes like this. Very simply, it’s when one person has a problem with another and instead of going directly to him, he complains to another and another and another, thus creating a triangle of confusion. Modern day counsellors are not the first people to warn us against such destructive behaviour. Jesus did so when he told his disciples to go directly and privately to a person with whom they might have a problem. And if that didn’t work, to take it one step at a time until that person needs to be considered a “Gentile and tax collector.”

Lest this final piece of advice be seen as exceptionally harsh, let’s be clear that the thrust of the reading is to seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in the Christian community. Jesus certainly built bridges with all sorts of outside peoples: lepers, Samaritans, Canaanites, and various other marginalised peoples and, in particular, those regarded as ritually ‘unclean’. Jesus didn’t keep other people at arm’s length, but rather embraced them, seeking to be a brother and neighbour to all he encountered. The only ones left out were those who had placed themselves outside Jesus’ compassion and love by their refusal to listen and their inability to demonstrate forgiveness and reconciliation to others.

Thus, Jesus clearly wants his disciples to know that their starting point should always be to build bridges between members of the community.

We’re to be like my colleague who built a bridge between herself, as a woman priest, and those who found it impossible to accept that the ordination of women might be part of God’s plan for his church – not to mention women in positions of authority over them as bishop.

We’re to be like those friends of mine in Canada who began to move beyond their initial feelings of disappointment and disapproval to the kind of dialogue that arises from our calling to offer unconditional love to our children – however hard that might be. Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans echoes Christ’s message of being a bridge builder of reconciliation and takes it further. He tells us to,

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

He goes on to repeat the second half of the Great Commandment, to

“Love your neighbour as yourself”.

Paul realised that Jesus’ central message of love demands that we go beyond the basics. For him, the one and only act of respect that all humans should ask of their brothers and sisters in Christ is to love. In order to be a great bridge builder between people who find themselves estranged for whatever reason, requires great love, persistence, and strength. It’s unfortunate, but nonetheless a reality, that our Christian community and local parishes are often in need of significant bridge building to reconcile individuals and groups who stand opposed on various issues, both theologically and socially. I have a great admiration for a couple I know who, when they retired and moved to a different town to be nearer to their family, decided not to go to the local parish church where they’d have been welcomed by lots of other couples who shared their professional interests and lifestyle.

Instead, they chose to attend another church, only a couple of miles away, that drew its congregation from an estate with a multi-ethnic population and few people from the professions. They felt they would have more to offer at such a church and, indeed this was the case. It was a strange experience for them and a bit of a culture shock, but what was more important was that they were able to learn to love and respect people whose experience of life was very different from their own.

Today’s lessons call us to demonstrate love, as the one and only debt we owe to any person, by reaching out and seeking reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Few people are not in need of reconciliation, whether it be with a member of our family, a friend, a co-worker, or even God. Today, our Dean and his wife are celebrating their Silver Wedding Anniversary. And it’s right that we should always celebrate such an anniversary for it demonstrates what we mean when we say that Christian marriage is about our lifelong vows of commitment and faithfulness, reflecting God’s commitment and faithfulness to us. For I’m sure that even in such a well-ordered household as the Dean’s, there will have been times of testing and the occasional frisson of discord. Christian marriage has become counter-cultural in demanding that we resolve our differences and difficulties within that relationship and seek reconciliation, rather than abandoning it.

The scriptures provide abundant evidence that God is not only present and seeking our reconciliation, but additionally, we have a significant responsibility to make sure that the bridges we seek to build are actually constructed. In order to do this, it’s necessary to believe that God is there, waiting for us to return, and then transform God’s forgiveness of us into our forgiveness and reconciliation of others.

As a Minister in Secular Employment, working in the field of sex education and sexual counselling, my ministry is largely with those who do not belong to a church. That’s not to say that none of them identify as Christians – far from it. I daily come across people who call themselves Christians, have a prayer life that would put mine to shame, and perhaps even used to, once upon a time, attend church regularly. There may be one of a number of reasons for this but what stands out is the frequency with which I hear stories of a falling-out. Perhaps they didn’t like the new vicar or a particular clique that had become dominant in the congregation. What saddens me most is to hear how many have fallen away because of a perception that the church (or God) wouldn’t approve of a new relationship they’d formed or something they’d done.

The fact that I hear these stories, as a woman in a dog collar carrying out her daily work, is testimony to a crying need for reconciliation – for another Christian to hear their story in confidence – a link, somehow to Christ – like the woman suffering from an issue of blood who touched Jesus’ robe, desperate for healing but, believing herself to be unclean, didn’t dare to ask in public what might be refused.

A powerful image, I believe, that captures the confidence we must have that God is willing, able, and desirous for our return to him. He, in turn will send us forth to build bridges of reconciliation with our brothers and sisters.

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

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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

 

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TEENAGE PREGNANCY: ARE THE CHURCHES TO BLAME?

Jane Fraser

This was the rather controversial title of a paper I wrote for inclusion in ‘Opening Up: Speaking Out in the Church’ [edited by Julian Filochowski and Peter Stanford, published by Darton, Longman & Todd last year and reviewed in the Winter 2005 edition of CSCS News]. It was pointed out to me by the Press and Communications Officer in our Diocese of Worcester, that I couldn’t write about the lack of engagement by the churches in this social problem without doing something about it myself. Duly chastised, I met with the Bishop, the Social Responsibility Officer, the Director of Education and the Youth Officer for the Diocese. Out of that meeting came a proposal for me to write a ‘popular’, shortened version of the original paper to be published as one of a series of diocesan booklets containing stories and critical comment on social justice themes. They are meant to be read and studied by a wide range of people, both within the faith communities and in wider society. They are circulated to churches and other faith groups, voluntary and community agencies, statutory organisations and local authority departments. A brief press release from the Diocesan Offices at the time of publication of the booklet stimulated a flurry of interest in the media – radio interviews locally and in London, and press reports in both Worcester papers and the Birmingham Post. For a little discussion booklet it was unprecedented and one can only surmise that the juxtaposition of God and sex was the trigger! However, it was a golden opportunity for me to highlight a Christian perspective on the wider issue of teenage sexual behaviour that didn’t encompass the popular view that the Church is entirely condemnatory but, on the contrary, presented a compassionate analysis.

The other outcome of my discussion with Diocesan officers was to take up one of the recommendations in the booklet, to offer training to church and voluntary organisation youth workers on talking to young people about sexual matters. The Diocesan Youth Officer, working in collaboration with the Worcestershire Council for Voluntary Youth Services, arranged an evening workshop that was appreciated by those who came. It was
of particular value for those who were fully aware of the need to discuss sexual matters with the young people with whom they had contact but were nervous about broaching the subject, or those who were uncertain about strategies that were known to be effective.

We are now exploring the possibility of joining forces with the local Teenage Pregnancy Unit to organise a local conference on the subject for any health, social services, voluntary or church personnel who share our concerns and are motivated to engage in a constructive way with the issues.

If any of our members are interested in this topic or the project in general, you may download the booklet entitled, ‘Teenage Pregnancy: A Church Problem?’ from the Worcester Diocesan website www.cofe-worcester.org.uk You will need to click on ‘Social and Economic Engagement’ and then on ‘Publications and Resources’, where you will find it listed under the ‘Just So’ series of booklets. I am also happy to offer a workshop on ‘Talking to Young People about Relationships and Sex’ for a small fee and travel expenses.

You can contact me on training@revjane.demon.co.uk or by phone on 01684 594715.

 

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