General Synod 2007 requested Faith, Worship and Ministry to develop a process to engage dioceses and parishes of the Anglican Church of Canada in a study of the Christian perspective on human sexuality through the lens of scripture, reason, tradition and current scientific understanding. The hope is that a broader study of human sexuality would provide the opportunity to step away from the hotly debated issues surrounding homosexuality and the place of gay and lesbian people within the life of the church. Instead it invites us to enter a process of listening, dialogue and learning about human sexuality, something that is innately part of us all, straight or gay, young or old, urban or rural — all people and all cultures.
We are all sexual beings — body, mind and soul. As Christians we are called to live in ways that embody a faithful Christian life. In doing this we are impelled to consider:
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1.27)
What does it mean to be created in the image of God?
This foundational question invites rich and often controversial discussions about what it means to be faithful, sexual, gendered beings in ways that embody our love of God, self and neighbour.
The subject of sexuality is complex. There are social, biological and personal dimensions to human sexuality and gender. There are elements of sexuality that are intensely personal, taboo, or simply difficult to talk about openly. At the same time, other aspects of sexuality are very public and even commodified, widely available for emulation, imitation and purchase. Over the past 50 years the ground has been shifting both in church and in the world around us in some significant ways that have been seen as both liberating and dangerous. As Christians discerning what it means to be sexual beings in the world today we need to look through the lens of the gospel and engage our traditions and past teachings from the perspective of present, contemporary life. The purpose of this guide is to offer an opportunity to look at images of human sexuality in scripture, in creation stories, scientific understandings of sexuality, and the church’s teaching and practice.
The greatest challenge in creating a resource like this is sorting through and selecting from the materials available. Sexuality and Gender Studies are commonplace areas of academic study on university curricula internationally and there is a vast amount of material being generated as scholars and scientists learn more about the nature and expression of our sexuality.
The primary concern in this guide is to provide materials and a process that would be most helpful to the church. To discern this, a series of focus groups and conversations were held around the country in places as diverse as urban Ontario and the Arctic. This study has been designed based on what we heard.