POSITION PAPER: GENDER MINISTRY ON SEXUALITY

Introduction

This paper to Diocesan Synod has a two-fold purpose and will seek to: 1. Solicit support of synod for the establishment of a working group on the issue of human sexuality; and

2. Solicit the support of synod for a request to be made to the synod of bishops to provide

pastoral guidelines for members in committed same-sex relationships

Background

In the period since a full time gender desk coordinator has been appointed in the diocese, a number of workshops, activities and talks around gender issues ranging from health right through to human trafficking had taken place. The participants ranged from clergy to students to lay people. One of the issues most commonly asked questions on, regardless of the topic actually addressed centred on human sexuality, more specifically homosexuality, and what the Church’s stance is around this.

There appears to be a real need for dialogue around this issue. It does not appear as if, up until this point, safe spaces has been created for people to enter into dialogue and be listened to, regardless of whether their views are in acceptance of or against recognizing people professing same-sex attraction. The situation is analogous to the debate that went on around the ordination of female clergy, and while there was initially widespread discontent, there is now to a large extent an acceptance that e are all one in Christ through our baptism.

Historically, the Anglican Church worldwide has been struggling with attempts at making sense of sexuality. This resulted in a number of statements being made on homosexuality. For example:

“…The Church, recognising the need for pastoral concern for those who are homosexual and encourages dialogue with them” – Lambeth.1978, Resolution 10

“.. ..Calls each province to reassess, in the light of such study and because of our concern for human rights, its care for and attitude towards persons of homosexual orientation” – Lambeth 1988, Resolution 64

“We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure

them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the body of Christ… Calion all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation…” Lambeth 1998, Resolution 1.10 “Moreover, any demonising of homosexual persons, or their ill treatment, is totally against Christian charity and basic principles of pastoral care. We urge provinces to be proactive in

support of the call of Lambeth Resolution 64 (1988)… its care and attitude towards persons of homosexual orientation”… Windsor report 2004

“In the middle of it all are our gay and lesbian Christian brothers and sisters- at least 10 % in any community, some priests, some bishops, some our children, our brothers, our neighbours,

people in our congregations, whom we talk about and continue to reject and ridicule andfail to offer a safe space to talk to find out what its like to be patronized and ,demonised- Bishop Merwyn Castle, Bishops Charge, False Bay Diocesan Synod, 2007

“We need to repent of statements and actions that have further damaged the dignity of homosexual persons” – Lambeth 2008

Conclusion

There is a clear and consistent message over the last 30 years that the church needs to enter into dialogue and try to reach a level of understanding of what people \vho identify as gay and lesbian, experience in their life as Christians, and to understand their genetic configuration.

There also needs to be safe spaces where those who feel that they cannot in good conscience condone same sex practices, are able to share their views.

The success of any dialogue depends on the participants in that dialogue’s ability, willingness and openness to listen to viewpoints they may fundamentally disagree with, and to come to a shared understanding of what the issues are the ‘other person or group faces.

However, although these pronouncements have consistently been made,. in our province no systems have yet been put in place to enable dialogue to commence. It is believed that the establishment of a working group dedicated to the entering into dialogue, may cure that defect in the diocese. It is envisaged that the working group should consist of clergy, lay people and others with a professional interest in the issue. It is also envisaged that, to have true dialogue, people with opposing views, and people who identify as homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual should be invited onto the working group.

It is acknowledged that same-sex civil unions are not currently recognised by the Church. It is also recognised, however, that whilst dialogue is ongoing, and. has within the Anglican Communion happened over the last at least 30 years, there are currently gays and lesbians in committed same-sex relationships within our churches. If we indeed agree, as stated at Lambeth 1998, that these persons are full members of the church, then they should be entitled to the same pastoral care as other members, and that include sensitive pastoral care around issues of sexuality. The family members of such parishioners also need to be able to seek pastoral care, without fear of intimidation. Pastoral care cannot, and should not, be postponed while dialogue is entered into, as it h.as been for the last 30 years.

It is therefore proposed that the synod of bishops should be requested to prepare glidelines for pastoral care to gays and lesbians in committed relationships.

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