The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality

The Witness of Science

David de Pomerai and Glynn Harrison

Introduction

The earlier sections of this book have set the scene in terms of mission and listening, introduced the resources found in the authorities of Scripture, tradition and reason, and introduced the voices of homosexual persons reflecting on identity and a dialogue on spirituality and sexuality between two Anglicans of quite different views. This final section returns to a much more technical and academic style. It does so by looking to the work of two Anglican scientists which helps us understand what biology - particularly genetics - and psychology can tell us about homosexuality.

This book is likely to be read by people with a theological background and may be challenging for those who do not have an understanding of science. You may also want to read the contents with a Christian you know who is a scientist, perhaps a doctor or a science teacher.

Both David de Pomerai and Glynn Harrison are working scientists in British universities. They bring their skills to enable us to consider the research which has taken place over recent years in their own fields. As noted in the introduction, Lambeth Conferences and other Instruments have repeatedly requested study of scientific evidence but this has rarely been done in Anglican documents on sexuality. As a result scientific claims are sometimes made by advocates of different theological positions that are difficult to assess. To help in this task, this chapter reviews the literature and its bearing on Christian discussion. David focuses on the possible biological causes of homosexuality in the hope that the scientific research may help answer such questions as to whether or not homosexuality is biologically fixed. Glynn examines the question of whether those who do not wish to experience same sex attraction can experience significant change in their sexual feelings and desires, as claimed by some Christians. Although they are experts in the their respective fields - David is a biologist, specifically a geneticist, while Glynn is a professor of psychiatry, specializing in schizophrenia - neither of them were personally involved in any of the research they report here.

What follows is often highly technical and quite complex. However, as all truth is God’s truth, it is vital that Christians thinking about sexuality be as well informed as they can be about the findings of different scientific studies. It is important to acknowledge, nevertheless, that both David and Glynn are clear that the science they present is not conclusive. Furthermore, even if it were conclusive science, as faithful Anglicans, they do not believe it is for science to have the last and determinative word on how we should then live as Christians or order ourselves as churches. That fact is why this is only one of eight chapters in this book and it is important that its findings are related to the other chapters, particularly those in section two of the book exploring Scripture, tradition and reason.

One of the features of scientific investigation - in contrast to the immediately preceding chapters - is that it seeks to be dispassionate, neutral, objective and impersonal. Some of the language in this chapter may therefore seem to you to be clinical and even dehumanizing. Glynn and David recognize this and it is another of the reasons they believe that, although science has a place, its place is limited and needs to be put alongside the more personal stories found elsewhere in this book.

While some readers will have a good knowledge of science, many will not. The book is designed for those who are more competent in theology than science. David and Glynn therefore begin their sections with an overview of their papers, summarising their main sections and findings. If you do not have a scientific background you may wish simply to read these and then follow up in more detail any sections that particularly interest you. As in all the chapters, the conclusions they reach are their own but we believe their work represents a major contribution to this often neglected aspect of the discussion among Christians and hope it will help you deepen your understanding of the mystery of human sexuality.

With new material being published Dr de Pomerai has updated the material in chapter 8 Part 1.

Biological mechanisms in homosexuality; an update (2007-8)

Part 1 - Biological Mechanisms in Homosexuality - A Critical Review

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Part 2 - Unwanted Same-Sex Attractions: Can Pastoral and counselling Interventions Help People to Change?

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Submissions

The Anglican Communion does not recommend or endorse any of the submissions. The resources provided are intended to enable mutual listening and are made available for study, discussion and reflection within each member Church of the Communion as requested by Resolution 12 of ACC – 13.
http://www.anglicancommunion.org/communion/acc/meetings/acc13/resolutions.cfm#s12

Mario Bergner – Pastoral Considerations for Homosexuality

A Submission from a Special Interest Group in the Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK)

Jack Drescher - Sexual Conversion Therapies

Wayne Bessen – The ‘Ex-gay’ Myth

Michelle Wolkomir - Gay and Ex-Gay Paths to Resolving the Dilemma of Homosexuality in Christianity

Gillian Cooke and Alan Sheard - Created by God, Christianity and homosexuality in the 21st Century

Dawn McDonald - Concerning Pastoral Care to the Same-sex Attracted