A Study Resource on Human Sexuality: Approaches to Sexuality and Christian Theology
Winifred M. O'Rourke was a writer and journalist in Saskatoon.
An important point to make about this book is that it consists of resource papers authored by different consultants, who formed the Committee on Human Sexuality of the National Executive Council, Anglican Church of Canada, with James Reed as editor and chairperson. Reed also contributes four of the papers and the introduction.
A statement from the House of Bishops points out that the contents do not have official approval nor are they agreed doctrinal or ethical statements. The decision to have the material published was to help Anglicans to understand human sexuality better and to provide the means for further discussion at local levels.
Archbishop Edward W. Scott (the primate at time of publication), refers to a resolution of the 1978 Lambeth Conference, which commended the church to a theological study of sexuality and “the need for deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality.” James Reed in his introduction states there are limitations to the resources; they do introduce some basic principles and issues but they do not give authorative statements on doctrine or morality.
A statement in 1978 by the Anglican Bishops of Canada refers to the open discussion and debate “often highly emotional, on the life and rights of homosexual persons in society,” which has become commonplace in recent years. The bishops’ statement also includes, “On marriage in the Church,” “Women’s Concerns,” and a message to Anglicans and Canadians in general regarding their deep concern “for the impact of pornography upon our people and upon the whole of society.” “The Bible, Christian Tradition, and Sexuality” is the title of the first resource paper. Cautions are given re the use and misuse of sources (the proof-text method) and the selectivity of texts. “The relationship between law and grace in the Bible needs examination with regard to standards of sexual behavior,” Geoffrey Parke-Taylor says. There is not one single view on sexuality in the Bible; historical and cultural factors as well as linguistic considerations all contribute to understanding. Other sections in this paper include biblical views of sexuality and marriage, homosexuality, incest, sexist attitudes, sexuality in church tradition, and sexual ethics in the teaching of Jesus and insights from modern disciplines. “The attitudes of Christians need to be based on the best insights available from Scripture, tradition, theology, and modern disciplines, formed in the light of the self-giving love and compassion of Jesus Christ.”
James Reed writes of theology, ethics, and sexuality. He discusses the legalistic way, the anti-law way (Antinominian Way) and the contextual way of how people make decisions regarding sexuality. He also writes of some challenges to basic principles and making moral decisions. Other topics dealt with in the book are the study of sexuality in the context of recent Lambeth Conferences; learning to be sexual; perspectives from biology, psychology, and sociology; sexuality and the status of women; issues of social justice: homosexuality and gay people; and homosexual identity.
Questions for discussion are set at the end of each paper. Extensive notes, case studies, and resources for further study make this book an excellent resource on a difficult topic.