Sunday, 18 March 2007

Changing Attitude report suggested 'sex is for friends'

[...] LGBT sexualities are part of the prodigal range of potential and variety in God’s creation.

This inclusive approach to current manifestations of new patterns of intimacy and visible sexual lifestyles in the West implies a belief in the continuing revelation of sexual truths by the Holy Spirit. This is our eschatological connection, via our recognition of the provisional nature and developing forms of human sexuality until all is gathered up at the Parousia.

We consider that the evident difficulty of the religious ‘right’ (both catholic and protestant) in accepting that LGBT sexualities are God-given must be more to do with historical attitudes in our cultural traditions and with individual and social prejudice than with discerning the movement of the Holy Spirit in our times. Fundamentalist adherence to selective and literalist interpretations of scriptural texts about sexual behaviour seem to stem from fear of what might follow if the validity of sexual relationships outside marriage was accepted by the churches; a major consequence might be the final collapse of any rationale for insisting that the letter of scripture can be used like a rule book.


There is often an implicit assumption in using the words ‘faithfulness’ and ‘commitment’ in this discussion that we are always talking about sexual relationships persisting over a long period of time. And of course time provides the vital conditions for development, change and growth. To be committed is to take things seriously. It is to say ‘Tomorrow I will be here as well as today, which means that we have time. Time for facing up to the reality of each other. I am not going to run away (from you or myself).’ However, the biblical theme is primarily about the overwhelming demand to remain faithful to our covenantal relationship with God through the Spirit (which, as the gospels warn, may challenge conventional family obligations)Thus while it is clear to us as LGBTs when we survey the gay scene, and indeed much of contemporary social life, that casual sex can often be addictive and destructive, we think it is important to remain open to the possibility that brief and loving sexual engagement between mature adults in special circumstances can be occasions of grace. Risky, but then as Paul Tillich said ‘A Christian is safest taking risks!’

The exploration of our sexual selves can be something which benefits from involvement with more than one person. Sexual involvement does not necessarily involve any greater psychic risk to a person than does emotional involvement (though the two are deeply intertwined). We recognise that people fall in love, become involved, get hurt, experience love not reciprocated or mutuality achieved. All this is an inevitable and appropriate part of the process of finding a life partner; becoming sexually involved can be part of the process and may well cause less damage and pain than the emotional dimension.


A ‘friendship’ matrix might look like this:-

• Friendship with self as the fundamental building block of all relating. Religious and mystical traditions tend to locate our basic connection with the divine here. Self-pleasuring, sexual and otherwise, is an integral element.

• Friendships with individuals. All friendships rely on a certain amount of trust, creativity and mutual benefit to persist. In this sense they can be seen as covenantal. As marriage includes a legal contract, other forms of partnership, including same-sex arrangements,might involve public and/or legal commitments. There is a strong case for this around child rearing, and the civil rights movement has established a further range of compelling grounds for legislative changes now in prospect. All friendships probably use erotic energy. Whether or not they include sexual expression is a matter for the discretion of those concerned, based on the complex of considerations we outline below – particularly balancing the destructiveness of sexual jealousy against the enriching potential of variety.

• Friendship as group membership. Groups may be informal, perhaps sharing an interest; for the young, gangs often express this urge to belong. Groups can exert a very powerful emotional hold and rely on the same covenantal virtues to continue as positive influences. Often groups have a more or less recognised erotic charge, e.g. sports teams. Structured groups are often part of life at schools, colleges, churches, work places, pubs, clubs etc. Sexual relationships that develop via group involvements would also be measured against the ‘Rights and Wrongs’ below

• Friendship expressed through commitment to causes, professions and passionate interests. At first sight this level might seem a bit abstract to be subsumed under friendship. However this is the mode through which a celibate priesthood has been expected to sublimate and to invest sexual energy. Same-sex communities harness the same erotic dimension. Membership of professional bodies typically involves assent to codes of conduct that echo ‘covenantal’ principles.

• Friendship with God. The various christian traditions would emphasise the importance of different points in the above matrix for our encounter with the offer of God’s friendship. Our view is that it is helpful to think of relating to God’s friendly otherness through the mediation of all these modes of friendship together – holistically, in fact.


Ethical sexual relations should involve:-

• Respect for the integrity of self and others, i.e. free consent to sex; no serious physical hurt or harm; understanding and use of safe sex.

• Consideration for the cultural background of others and where they are coming from. This includes the balance of relative power and control between men and women, and between different age groups, as well as ethnic, national considerations, etc..

• Sensitivity to the role of power in sex. Thus it is always the adult’s responsibility to hold and respect the boundary which outlaws sex with children; the customary prohibited degrees of incest are also a protection against the sexual abuse of power in the family.

• Realistic assessment of any consequences of starting a new sexual relationship on existing commitments of both parties. Respect for existing partnerships and friendships. A realistic assessment of the likely effects of the jealousy factor on all involved.

• As much honesty and clarity as possible about intention and freedom to act of both parties, especially where dependents are involved.

• Recognition of the significance of practicalities like time, money, location, health, etc.

• Respect for the secular law, and for prevailing social norms.

Download the full document.

1 comment:

Fern said...

This is rather a cat-out-of-the-bag report from Changing Attitude, is it not? A shorter version might read "the Holy Spirit endorses cottaging".
I wonder if Bishop Gladwin has listened long enough to hear what's being said?