University of Winchester

ABSTRACTS /Michael Keenan

Creating Christian Homosexuality’: The Church and the ‘gay issue

Statements by the House of Bishops of the Church of England concerning homosexuality (For example: the acceptance of the orientation of homosexuality, the toleration of monogamous homosexual lay partnerships (House of Bishops 1991), and the acceptance of Celibate partnerships involving clergy (House of Bishops 2005)) have suggested a partial liberalisation of the Church’s official stance on this issue. This paper draws on a research project concerning the lives and experiences of gay male Anglican clergy. Using evidence from this project the paper will discuss these men’s understandings of the nature of their sexuality, specifically their claim to the essentialist (god-given) nature of homosexuality, and the developments such understandings have been seen to allow in discussion with the Church. Such claims to the innateness of homosexuality, undergirded by theological understandings of the role of God in the creation of homosexuality, are seen by the respondents to have influenced the partial liberalisation of official church statements on homosexuality, and provided discussion space in which to challenge opposition.

However, the paper also suggests this liberalisation of the church’s official stance can be viewed in terms of the creation of an ‘acceptable homosexuality’ which controls and boundaries homosexuality as a lesser sexuality. The paper questions whether clergy’s claims to essentialism aid the continued liberalisation of Church statements, or whether such claims strengthen the boundaries and limitations of ‘acceptable homosexuality’.

Biographical Statement

Michael Keenan is a final year PhD student at Nottingham Trent University.


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