Think-tank proposes different approach to church sexuality row

EDINBURGH & LONDON, December 1st, 2013: Churches with different views in heated debates about sexuality actually share common ground and can move forward despite their differences, says a new paper from the Christian think-tank Ekklesia.

The research paper, ‘Church views on sexuality: recovering the middle ground’, by Savitri Hensman, rejects the popular idea that there are two warring blocks that may be labelled ‘traditionalists’ and ‘revisionists’. This is simplistic and can be misleading as well as unhelpful, it says.

In the new paper, Ekklesia identifies seven widely held viewpoints on sexuality within churches of different denominations and traditions. It shows that those with supposedly diametrically opposing positions often have more in common than they may at first think – even though they may presently disagree about same-sex relationships, for example.

Equally, it argues, coexistence among those sharing a 'middle ground' is not about weak compromise, but instead reflects an approach both deeply rooted in Bible and tradition and open to change as a living community led by the Spirit.

Bishop Duleep de Chickera, recently Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, is one of a number of church leaders who have already responded positively to the initiative.

“The seven positions are a fair representation of the spectrum in the Church and its reasoning is clear,” he says. What I like most is the reconciliatory thrust… A sensible and timely intervention.”

Bishop de Chickera preached at the opening service of the 2008 Lambeth Conference and spoke at the recent World Council of Churches’ 10th Assembly.

The Anglican Bishop of Buckingham, England, the Rt Rev Alan Wilson, a regular media commentator, has also personally welcomed the paper, adding: “Anything that helps people understand how they relate to this area of concern is good news.”

The practical proposal from Ekklesia for reconciliatory moves comes at the same time as the Pilling Report in the Church of England, which recommends some measure of positive accommodation, and processes of reconsideration going on within the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), the Scottish Episcopal Church and others.

“The churches in Britain and beyond cannot afford to allow themselves to be dragged into many more years of internecine warfare over sexuality,” says Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow.

“Savitri Hensman’s paper shows that there is a way forward for the great majority which acknowledges the reality of change, the possibility of mutual recognition, and the benefit of allowing Christian grace rather than fear and suspicion to guide the way differences among churches are handled.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors:

1. Founded in 2001, Ekklesia examines politics, values and beliefs in a changing world, from a Christian perspective in dialogue with others. It is an independent, ecumenical think-tank which is not aligned to any particular denomination, but draws inspiration from Anabaptist and Peace Church traditions. More information here: www.ekklesia.co.uk/about

2. The full paper, ‘Church views on sexuality: recovering the middle ground’, can be read and downloaded here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19512

3. Ekklesia's approach to the sexuality debate within the churches is summarised here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/about/faqs/25

4. Savitri Hensman also contributed to (ed.) Simon Barrow, Fear or freedom? Why a warring church must change (Shoving Leopard / Ekklesia, 2008). Preface by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

5. For further comment, or to contact the author of this paper or others mentioned in the release, please contact Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow - 07850 120413, simon.barrow AT ekklesia.co.uk