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Some issues in human sexuality: a guide to the debate

The House of Bishops has commended for study a guide to some aspects of the debate on human sexuality. Some Issues in Human Sexuality: A Guide to the Debate, requested by the House three years ago, sets out a variety of views on homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexualism and seeks to promote informed reflection on them. It neither changes nor suggests changes to current Church policy.

"Recent events have highlighted the need for such a guide," said the Rt Rev Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford and chairman of the group of bishops that produced the Guide, "and the House of Bishops believe it has become timely to publish this study guide now to help Christian people think through different aspects of gay, lesbian and transsexual relationships."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said that the report was intended to deepen the Church's study on the issue: "It is clear that there is a real need for more study of the issues raised by human sexuality. We have done a great deal of work as a church on this matter and we know that there is much still be to be learned.

"I hope that this report will help us to develop our understanding and to address the challenges that we still face."

When the House asked a group of bishops, in 1999, to prepare a study guide on some issues in human sexuality, it was conscious of the need to listen to the experience of homosexuals as called for in the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10. Furthermore there has also been a great deal of published material in this field since the House's 1991 Statement Issues in Human Sexuality appeared.

In June 2003 the House of Bishops - following discussion at the annual meeting of all Church of England bishops - agreed to publish Some Issues in Human Sexuality: A Guide to the Debate under its authority and to commend it to the Church for study. As is stated in the Foreword to the document, 'it works within the parameters of the House's 1991 Statement Issues in Human Sexuality and does not seek to change the position of the House of Bishops from the one expressed there'. It is a study guide, designed to complement Issues rather than to make specific policy statements or recommendations.

The document is intended as a resource to enable people within the Church to understand these complex and sensitive matters more clearly and reflect more deeply on them. A short accompanying booklet, A Companion to Some Issues in Human Sexuality, with study material for individuals and groups, is being provided to assist the wider Church - in the General Synod, dioceses, parishes and elsewhere - in its continuing reflection.

The timing of any debate on the document in the Synod will be a matter for the Synod's Business Committee. The Synod next meets in February and again in July.

Some Issues in Human Sexuality: A Guide to the Debate, price £12.95, and A Companion to Some Issues in Human Sexuality, price £2.50 are published by Church House Publishing and are available from all Christian bookshops and Church House Bookshop, 31 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BN, tel. 020-7898 1305, e mail bookshop@c-of-e.org.uk, or on the web at: www.chbookshop.co.uk (mail order available).

1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10
Human Sexuality

This Conference:
(a) commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
(b) in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
(c) recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. 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;
(d) while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;
(e) cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
(f) requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
(g) notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.