Church sexuality guide calls for compassion

Homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people should be treated with compassion and as equal Christians, a new Church of England guide published today says.

The guide says that the debate about human sexuality “will not go away”, and tells Christians they should remember that people “really do have homosexual and bisexual desires”.

Its publication follows the schism-threatening consecration last weekend of Gene Robinson as the worldwide Anglican communion‘s first openly gay bishop.

Within hours of the ceremony, which was conducted by the US Episcopal church in New Hampshire, the head of the Kenyan Anglican church, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, was reported as saying that he would cut ties with the US church.

Anglican leaders in Nigeria, Uganda and South America have also voiced strong opposition to the consecration.

The Church of England guide, called Some Issues in Human Sexuality, said it was likely that homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people “will have encountered misunderstandings or hostility from members of the Christian church in the past”.

It added that, if the Christian gospel is to be meaningful to them, “it will need to be incarnated in terms of Christ’s love”.

The Rt Rev Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, who chaired the working party that drew up the guide, said in the foreword that it did not seek to change the 1991 view expressed by the House of Bishops, which stated that heterosexual marriage was the “proper context” for sexual activity.

Its view on homosexuality was that it could not be regarded as an equally valid “expression of God’s intention”, but that did not mean gay people were of less value than heterosexuals.

It said that gay people in long-term relationships should not be excluded from the church, but that gay clergy should remain celibate.

The new guide outlines the background to the debate in the Anglican church, and sets out the arguments and the use of the Bible in determining sexual ethics.

It calls for the church to work to combat homophobia and homophobic violence, and questions the “unhealthy obsession” with sexual sin.

The guide asks Christians to “explore” whether this was preventing them from focusing on other forms of sin such as commercial greed, poverty, and inequalities of wealth.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said: “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 to be learned.”

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