the friend online
19 January 2007

Why gay people should be welcome in churches - preview

Stephen Cox, Devonshire House & Tottenham MM, outlines some points of light in the churches

The Pink Paper, a lesbian and gay magazine, has nominated Quakers as one of five 'most gay friendly' organisations
  • There is to be a public vote, a bit like 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here
  • ' On the one hand, this is a bit of fun
  • On the other hand, it matters very much
  • Why?

    Lesbian, gay and bisexual people often see faith groups as not just alien to them, but often actively hostile
  • The Evangelical Alliance compares lesbianism to bestiality
  • The Catholic Church refers to laws to support gay couples as 'an attempt to eradicate the family'
  • Some groups, including African Anglicans and their allies, say alternative sexualities are the result of demonic possession
  • The often admirable Salvation Army won't let homosexuals play in its bands
  • Rowan Williams goes into more and more tortured squirming, as a fifth of his church goes into open rebellion
  • Islam, alas, is generally even worse – there are imams in the UK who advocate stoning homosexuals to death – and their mainstream counterparts say very little in opposition

  • Stephen Cox

    This is a preview of the full article - to see the whole thing, or to post a comment you need to login, or alternatively you could try a free sample!


    Tony Elliman, 20 January
    Why do I always see the typographical error after pressing the post button. That third to last paragraph should be

    "We tolerate it when people fail but we can't come to admit that it might just be normal and natural - all in all a good healthy thing to be doing."

    Tony Elliman, 20 January
    Catching up on my on-line reading of The Friend I was struck by this article and the book review of "Open Fidelity: an A–Z guide" (15 December). Two articles affirming the positive view of sexuality published so long ago in "Towards a Quaker View of Sex". My upbringing and understanding of sexuality had left me a mixture of myths and ignorance and this book was a godsend to a young man struggling to come to terms with sexual desire in my early 20s. The attitude of openness and tolerance was part of what influenced me becoming a Quaker in the 1970s.

    These articles strongly contrast with earlier debates in The Friend advocating stronger censorship laws and paranoia over "sexual offenders" in the meeting.

    As an adolescent the only way I could "discover" girls, about whom I had these strange urges, was to persuade an equally confused adolescent to take her clothes off or buy "soft porn" under the counter. I guess quite a few readers of The Friend were faced with the same problem. If someone older had offered me a third option it would have been hard to resist.

    What worries me is that ignorance and denial of our sexual nature not only fails to protect our young people but it actually puts them in danger. I have talked to so many people who have scars from growing up. So often the climate of secrecy, suppression and ignorance not only failed to protect them - it left them vulnerable.

    Have we also forgotten that when "Towards a Quaker View of Sex" was published gays were "sexual offenders" and, if it had existed, they too would have been put on the sex offenders register? Being a "sexual offender" can mean a myriad of different things and equating it with a treat to young people is naive. If statistics about sexual activity in young people are to be believed the majority of the supposed "threat" are not registered offenders anyway.

    The bible tells us that man was made in the image of God. He gave us (along with dolphins and bonobos chimps) the ability to enjoy sexual activity as a social activity. All the evidence suggests that, whatever, the advertised social mores most adults actually get on with enjoying it when ever they can. For some strange reason many then lie profusely about it and privately beat themselves up for being so evil.

    The older I get the more I believe that the public way our society deals with sex is actually what is perverted and unnatural. We lie about it all the time. We lie about it to our children. If a child eats with their mouth open we tell them to shut it because it doesn't look nice and it is rude. Fiddle with an itchy willie in 2007 when you are only ten and you are still told it will drop off!

    We come pre-wired by our creator to want sex and to enjoy it. With the opposite sex, with the same sex and with different partners. It is a far more pervasive part of our nature than the urge to fight when we are threatened. We have no choice about it - when our biological clock is ready the desire will come.

    Switching that off is a supreme sacrifice when we ask it of nuns, monks and priests. Yet perversely so much of society also expects nearly everyone else to bottle it up with just that tiny outlet of a monogamous same sex marriage several years off into the future. Changing culture and health has pushed the start of marriage up the age range and kept us alive to maintain monogamy for longer.

    We tolerate it when they people but we can't come to admit it might just be normal and natural - all in all a good healthy thing to be doing.

    Most evils (drugs, drink, violence, dishonesty, gluttony, avarice ...) go on being evil no matter how old you are. Most evils we are open and honest about. But sex is strange - it changes its colours from evil to a tolerable good as you grow up. After growing up with women who couldn't talk about it, it was decades before a positive sexual comment from a women ceased to shock me.

    When will the spirit of "Towards a Quaker View of Sex" take hold and allow us to accept sexual expression is just another normal part of life? We have come a long way from the 60s. We now accept nudity, sex outside marriage, serial monogamy and gay and lesbian relationships. But we still can't welcome the fact that John and Jane Doe like swinging from the chandeliers and be happy for them even though it is not our cup of tea. There is still a job for Quaker thinking to do in our community.


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    International Edition: Multifaith and hope in the West Bank
    Jane Garrett, Leeds MM & Jenny Bell, West Somerset MM
    International Edition: a visit to the West Bank
    Alan and Pauline York
    International Edition: Promoting non-violence in the West Bank
    Gerald Conyngham
    International Edition: Report from the Middle East
    Franco Perna
    Countries of the Week: Israel & Palestine

    Conciliation work in Nagaland
    Sarah Alldred, Hardshaw East MM
    News round-up
    Green living may not be so simple – or is it?
    Andrew Hughes Nind
    Edward Hoare & Judy Kirby
    Silence and patience
    Susie Paskins
    Why gay people should be welcome in churches
    Stephen Cox
    A portrait of George Fox
    Simon Webb
    John Hamilton: politician with a heart
    Peter Smith

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