(Fulcrum) Some observations on the forthcoming Synod debate on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts

9. However, we believe that in making further judgments about a reasonable response, two other factors need to be considered. First, we are disappointed at the minimization of the reality and extent of sexual fluidity. Although it is acknowledged that “sexual fluidity does occur” it is also asserted that “it is deeply misleading to state that…sexual desires can change”. Further, there is no comment at all about the issue of bisexuality – among adults who identify as LGB, bisexuals have been reported as comprising a majority among women and the proportion now appears to be rising markedly among younger people. Figures may vary, but we consider this to be a serious omission.

10. Bisexuality poses a major pastoral challenge to the Church at this point in the unfolding of the sexual revolution. For example, what are the implications of the motion before Synod for the pastoral and counseling support of a bisexual married person with children who wishes to hold to their marriage vows by ordering their sexual interests in line with their religious convictions and identity? There are many faithful Christians who wish to interpret and respond to their sexual interests in line with their identity in Christ, and the teaching of Scripture and the church, rather than re-define their identity on the basis of their sexual interests. The motion risks closing down conversation about the pastoral and counseling challenges of bisexuality at precisely the point in secular discourse when people are beginning to move beyond the old binary of ‘gay’ versus ‘straight’. Synod thereby risks buying into yesterday’s ‘science’.

11. Second, we recognize that Synod may be impressed by, and somewhat in awe of, the professional bodies that have signed up to statements such as that which it is being asked to endorse in the motion. We should bear in mind however that, notwithstanding their wellintentioned nature, these general declarations are not formulated within a Christian worldview of what it means to flourish as creatures made in the image of God, called into a self-sacrificial life of holiness within God’s work of redemption.

12. Within a purely secular framework people may be offered ‘gay affirmative’ counseling that seeks a full integration of same-sex, or bisexual, sexual interests into their sense of identity and affirms and supports them in their sexual relationships. Some Christians may also choose this course of action. Other Christians however will choose to embrace the biblical worldview as the integrative framework of their identity, and seek counseling or pastoral support that is correspondingly modeled on its teachings. They also have a right to do so, subject to the safeguards we have outlined above (paragraph 8). This approach (recognized by the American Psychological Association in their Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Responses to Sexual Orientation (2009)), has been called the pursuit of ‘telic’ congruence. We believe this to be a more thoughtful and appropriate response to these complex questions and commend it to our friends and colleagues on General Synod.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology