Talk 3: Homosexuality and Transgenderism

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The modern homosexual movement can be said have to begun in the Church in our country and in 1952! For that was the year the Church of England Moral Welfare Council (the predecessor to the Board for Social Responsibility) started to look into the problem of homosexuality. Undoubtedly its Report influenced the Government in 1955 in setting up the committee under Sir John Wolfenden to look into Homosexual Offences and Prostitution. And the resulting 'Wolfenden Report' of 1957 eventually led to a change in the law ten years later through the Sexual Offences Act 1967. No longer were homosexual practices among consenting adults over 21 punishable by the criminal law.

That, however, did not mean the law approved of such practices, as Lord Reid said in the International Times case in 1973. But, soon after that there was a General Synod Working Party on Homosexual Relationships that opened the moral flood gates with just one sentence in its 1980 report. The sentence was this:

"there are circumstances in which individuals may justifiably choose to enter into a homosexual relationship".

This followed from the hinge argument that:

"Traditionally the Church has ruled out homosexual practices entirely … But there is one important respect in which the situation has changed. It was assumed until quite recently that every mature individual was capable of a heterosexual response. It is now clear that for a significant proportion of the population this is not the case."

The Board for Social Responsibility, that published this Report, bound up with it its own 'observations' and contradicted this as false. The Board cited the evidence of medieval Church courts and teaching in the early church (and they could have added Aristotle who is clear in his Nicomachean Ethics). Sadly, the debate in the Church of England has never stopped since 1980 and that Report. For immediately a clear decision was reached, liberal bishops wanted to overturn it. That key decision was taken in 1987. That was when the Church of England defined its position with a bishops' motion at the General Synod. Yes, subsequently there was a 1991 Bishops' Report entitled 'Issues in Human Sexuality' which supports same-sex practice among the laity if their conscience permits it. And many have taken this as the doctrine of the Church of England. However, the teaching of the Church of England remains that of the 1987 General Synod resolution initiated by the Revd. Tony Higton but emended by the House of Bishop and subsequently passed by 403 votes to 8. This reads as follows:

"this Synod affirms that the biblical and traditional teaching on chastity and fidelity in personal relationships is a response to, and expression of, God's love for each one of us, and in particular affirms:

  1. that sexual intercourse is an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship;
  2. that fornication and adultery are sins against this ideal, and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion;
  3. that homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion;
  4. that all Christians are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, including sexual morality; and that holiness of life is particularly required of Christian leaders."

According to a [later] July 1997 General Synod motion, the report 'Issues in Human Sexuality' has the support of the General Synod as an aid to "prayerful study" but is "not the last word on the subject". That also was the report's own self-expressed aim according to its Preface. So 'Issues in Human Sexuality' with its liberal view regarding gay-sex for the laity cannot be said to be "the teaching of the Church of England on matters relating to same-sex practice and unions" as the Bishops' 1987 motion can be.

It also needs to be noted that the primacy of the 1987 decision was announced in 1997 by the Archbishop of Canterbury who signed off the report. That was his legal advice and expressed in a 'note' released to the Press for 19 June 1997 and in relation to another 1997 debate at the General Synod on homosexual issues. According to this "House of Bishops' note to other General Synod Members", the 1987 General Synod resolution "is a clear affirmation of the Church's traditional teaching on the subject." That July 1997 General Synod then followed the guidance of the bishops when the bishops advised against attempts …

"…either to restate that [motion] passed by the Synod in 1987 or to alter the position it took. The former is, in our view, unnecessary, as the 1987 motion continues on the record. The latter would be both unjustified and premature."

And so that 1987 decision remains the legal position on homosexual sexual relations in the Church of England. Of course, 'Issues in Human Sexuality' - the 1991 Bishops' Report - while being uneven (as many reports are) - contains helpful material. For example, Section 2.29 is a brilliant summary of the biblical teaching on sexual relationships. It says:

"There is … in Scripture an evolving convergence on the ideal of lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual union as the setting intended by God for the proper development of men and women as sexual beings. Sexual activity of any kind outside marriage comes to be seen as sinful, and homosexual practice as especially dishonourable."

But it also contains very unhelpful material. For when it came to the idea of conscience and homosexuality it was wrong. It says the following:

"it is … only right that there should be an open and welcoming place in the Christian community both for those homophiles who follow the way of abstinence, giving themselves to friendship for many rather than intimacy with one, and also for those who are conscientiously convinced that a faithful, sexually active relationship with one person, aimed at helping both partners to grow in discipleship, is the way of life God wills for them."

You need to note that the bishops in this 1991 report excluded clergy form any openness to homosexual sex. And you need to note that they are referring to the traditional teaching on the 'conscience' for justifying their acceptance of lay homosexual sex. They say:

"Christian tradition … contains an emphasis on respect for free conscientious judgment where the individual has seriously weighed the issues involved."

But, sadly, they are, surely, wrong in their understanding of that traditional (in fact medieval) teaching. For they are just following one conclusion of the traditional medieval teaching about the conscience, namely that it has to be respected. But they are ignoring important qualifications. The essentials of the traditional teaching are as follows.

  • First, the paradigm case involving the conscience is the duty to obey God rather than man (Act 5.29).
  • Secondly, there must be a distinction between a good conscience and one that is in error.
  • And, thirdly, there must be a further distinction between 'vincible' and 'invincible' error – error that can and cannot be corrected. A conscience with 'invincible' error might today be called 'pathological' and so is more excusable. A conscience with 'vincible' error is morally guilty, because it could and should have seen the truth. A conscience of a rational person that contradicts the clear teaching of the Bible is always in a state of 'vincible' error and so guilty and in principle their conscience is not to be followed.
  • But, fourthly, there is a vital distinction relating to 'vincible' error. And that is between what such a conscience permits and what it forbids. For where a 'vincibly' errant conscience is permissive, and allows 'homosexual sex', it must not be followed. But where it forbids something, that is to say, 'abstaining' from something, like wine or meat, as in Romans 14, it should be followed (in abstinence) until the error is discovered.

And this last distinction was emphasized because one's conscience errs more often through being too liberal than through being too strict.

So the bishops validated homosexual sex among the laity in defiance of the clear teaching of the Bible and in defiance, through misunderstanding, of the medieval tradition on the conscience; and confusion was sown. Confusion is also caused by statements based on inadequate evidence in so called 'modern science' conclusions. In 1980 I edited and wrote in 'The Church and Homosexuality' with David Watson and Michael Green. Among other things I wrote about how unrepresentative were the field studies of the bisexual A.C. Kinsey, still then a great guru on sexuality from his famous Kinsey Reports, 'Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male' (1948) and 'Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female' (1953) and who greatly influenced the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967.

It was similar when 20 years later my wife conducted a serious piece of medical research involving an extensive literature search on homosexual parenting. There was only one scientifically significant relevant fact she discovered. Most studies on either side were too anecdotal. But one longitudinal study revealed that …

"… six of the 25 [young adults in the study] of those from lesbian homes had been involved in a sexual relationship with one or more people of the same sex, whereas none of those from heterosexual [single mother] homes had had a same sex relationship."

So much for homosexual relationships. I now need to say something about transgenderism. I am assuming a basic knowledge of the issues. So in the time available I will say just four things.

First, we are talking about something that many are describing as 'mad'. For where does self-conception stop? If I can say, being a man, with a birth certificate to prove it, "I feel like a woman," why can't I say, "I feel older or younger than what my birth certificate indicates I am?" and so have all sorts of financial and other advantages?

The classic book, 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions' – subtitled 'the Madness of Crowds' by Charles Mackay was published in 1841. In the Preface to the first edition he wrote:

"The object of the author in the following pages has been to collect the most remarkable instances of those moral epidemics which have been excited, sometimes by one cause and sometimes by another, and to show how easily the masses have been led astray, and how imitative and gregarious men are, even in their infatuations and crimes."

But in the Preface to the 1852 edition he adds this:

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds: it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses, slowly, one by one."

This may be true of Transgenderism.

Secondly, I accidently came across a cutting recently from a newspaper to show that what is happening is not only mad but wicked, whatever your anthropology. It is a letter from 23 years ago, from a Consultant Urological Surgeon, and referring to something 10 years earlier, therefore, in 1985 – a time when our national sexual decadence motivated that 1987 General Synod debate. It said:

"the main reason I resigned from Charing Cross Hospital over the matter of transsexual surgery was a question of priorities. At that time I had accumulated over a 12 month period 120 patients with proven or suspected bladder cancer whose admission to hospital for diagnostic or check cystoscopy had been cancelled. There were even patients, including a retired ward sister with a bladder tumour who had been premedicated, reaching the theatre and then had their operation cancelled at the last moment. To me it became a moral problem. Charing Cross Hospital chose to carry on with transsexual surgery as a NHS facility, reduced the number of urological beds to accommodate beds for transsexual surgery, and took away one of the operating theatre sessions from the Urology Department for gender reassignment surgery."

Thirdly, before last Christmas (2017) on the BBC Today programme, Professor Gary Butler, who is a consultant in paediatric and adolescent medicine at University College Hospital in London, was drawn into a discussion on transgenderism. At the start of his contribution he encouraged us to keep things in proportion and be aware of …

"… the extent of the problem we're dealing with. It still is incredibly rare. We're looking at probably one child born in every 20,000, possibly rarer than that, who are questioning their gender."

That means 15 people in the whole of the district of Newcastle itself with its population of 300,000 are really questioning their gender; and in the whole of the metropolitan area of Tyne and Wear 50 people with its population of 1 million. By contrast, literally millions of children in Britain are now under threat of being psychologically and developmentally damaged by transgender school policies encouraging children to question their gender. That is also surely wicked and opening teachers and head-teachers to future legal action for child abuse.

Fourthly, the facts are fairly straight-forward. Genuine transgenderism is a mental disorder that merits treatment, not the promotion of sexual reassignment surgery. Furthermore, it is reported that the suicide rate among transgendered people with surgery is 20 times higher than for the non-transgendered. And administering puberty-delaying hormones to the very young children to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous, stunt children's growth and risk causing sterility.

Surely that is child abuse, given that nearly 80% of those children will "abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated," or so says Paul McHugh, a Transgender authority. And he goes on:

"Sex change is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminised men or masculinised women. Claiming that this is a civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder."

I must conclude. If we think we can do what we like with our God-given bodies in terms of de-formation, where will it end? There are people with 'body integrity identity disorder' (BIID), who think that their true identity is as an amputee or a paraplegic. Some, according to a Dutch survey, have already had amputations. Yes, this is a tiny group. But let me close with this from a 2009 article in the journal Neuroethics:

"When faced with a patient requesting the amputation of a healthy limb, clinicians should make a careful diagnostic assessment. If the patient is found to have body integrity identity disorder, amputation of the healthy limb may be appropriate after a trial of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and after careful consideration of the risks, benefits, and unknowns of all possible treatment alternatives … Sufferers of BIID might be relieved to know that members of the medical profession will take their concerns seriously, and that, after careful deliberation, elective amputation of their troubling limb is a real possibility."

But this, of course, however kindness and sympathy may drive you, is flying in the face of the Christian tradition of medical ethics and common sense, namely that there should be no "surgical intervention into a living human body except to protect the functional integrity of that body when endangered by disease or injury."

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