Church of England General Synod and SOCE

Gen Synod 2017

Four months since I write a blog, in November 2016 I explained why I would not be ‘blogging’ so often as before.  However, voting in two debates of General Synod last weekend drives me back to the keyboard.

Synod has met twice this year.  In February, bishops presented their report on same-sex relationships (only one bishop voted against, and that was by mistake as he pressed the wrong button) and the house of laity supported the bishops’ report, it was the clergy who voted against, and as all three ‘houses’ have to agree a motion, it was rejected.

Last weekend, Synod voted against SOCE – Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.  Such efforts were not defined, asking only that any effort should not be attempted.  Government was even called upon to legislate against such (undefined) efforts.  Neither was there any attempt at theological engagement or Biblical exegesis on the subject.

Of course, early attempts at conversion therapy were nearly always misguided and often cruel, leading to suicidal thoughts and sometimes suicide itself.  The film ‘The Imitation Game’ about Alan Turing tells that story well.  I accept the conclusion of Andrew Goddard and Glyn Harrison, of the “lack of high quality evidence for the prospect of radical change (e.g. the absence of reliable Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) and the potential for harm that could result, especially from unrealistic expectations and promises of benefit from any particular counselling support. Indeed, we note that influential support groups for Christians who experience same-sex attraction such as ‘Living Out’ and ‘True Freedom Trust’ focus on the need for acceptance and formation in Christian discipleship rather than offering bold claims of sudden shifts in the patterning of sexual interests and attraction.”  I recommend reading Harrison and Goddard’s full reflection, on Ian Paul’s blog Psephizo (July 6, 2017)

My particular concern focuses around Synod’s passing comment that “sexual fluidity does occur…”, but does not follow it up.  In the 1980-85 Synod, I tried unsuccessfully to speak along the lines that this was my own teenage experience, as well as that of many of my peer group.  I wrote later about this.  I suggest that this has been true for every generation, and from a study of 1960’s pyschology, more of a male issue than female.  A culture that is built to last encourages its children to understand, that attraction to the opposite sex is the better option.  The Old Testament and the Qur’an, emphasise the importance of not only conceiving children but nurturing them by the parents that conceived them.  Jesus, in the New Testament, defines marriage as between one man and one woman, for life, as do the apostles.

Those who press for a liberal attitude for sexual expression would do well to look beyond the end of their noses and give credence to the significantly higher birth-rate among our Muslim co-citizens.  How long do they think it will be before strict marriage laws are enforced by a government representing the concerns of a Muslim population moving towards majority influence, but without a New Testament understanding of the complementing of male and female in God’s creation ordinance?  As expressed before on this blog, I would prefer to encourage Muslims to read the Qur’an as not denying the cross of Christ.

More important, how many excellent would-be parents will lose the life-enhancing experience of nurturing their own children, and grand-children, by not gently being discouraged from expressing teenage same-sex attraction, and allowing themselves time to – yes – mature sexually?  Of course for some that will not happen, and for them either the high calling of celibacy.  For others, either married or in a civil partnership without direct nurturing responsibilities, the opportunity to serve the community in ways that parents cannot.

How to get this across to the now wavering bishops of the Church of England (who had only in February presented a pretty good report on the subject), to our increasingly female clergy (who maybe do not understand fully the male tendency to promiscuity), and to the house of laity?

(written before reading Ian Paul’s Psephizo blog of today’s date.)