To the First Presidency and the World Conference:
The Presidency formed the Human Sexuality, Faith, and Community Task Force during the inter-Conference period. This new team combines the previous work of former committees: Homosexuality and the Church, and Human Sexuality.
Resulting from thorough discussion with the Presidency, and earlier discussions with the World Church Leadership Council, Standing High Council, and other committees, the Human Sexuality, Faith, and Community Task Force identified the development of a sexual ethic as the primary work during this period. It was agreed that this work would wait until the Extended World Church Leadership Council adopted church-wide core values, known as Enduring Principles.
After the adoption of the Enduring Principles, the Human Sexuality, Faith, and Community Task Force was formed, and work began on a draft Sexual Ethic. This work builds upon the careful work of the previous Homosexuality and the Church, and Human Sexuality committees.
Definition of a Sexual Ethic
A sexual ethic is foundational to our understanding of responsible sexuality as Christians and members of Community of Christ. Christian ethics should provide moral guidance, as well as promote the peace of Jesus Christ in people’s lives. Sexual ethics should seek, therefore, to shape personal relationships in which responsible expressions of sexuality nurture and nourish the whole person in community—body, mind, and spirit.
Community of Christ is a world community—a mosaic of peoples from many lands and cultures, creating a rich tapestry of experience and traditions. Therefore, when we speak about traditions, relationship norms, and practices, there often is a wide cross section of experience within the church that shapes our attitudes and behaviors.
In fact, what might be the usual practice in one country—such as having a spouse chosen for us by parents—might be considered highly irregular in another.
Further, what might be an issue of deep significance in one nation may not rise to common awareness in another—such as sexual cleansing rites in sub-Saharan Africa.
In short, what might be an issue of deep concern in our own community or nation may be considered very differently by other faithful and responsible church members. This is the blessing and challenge of a worldwide Christian family.
Having a general set of principles or affirmations can help the church think and talk about responsible sexuality and healthy relationships. A Statement of Sexual Ethics may be used to assist a church in addressing local concerns, as well as issues that affect the whole church.
Creating such an ethic is challenging because of the cultural richness in the church. A sexual ethic that encompasses the variety of nations, cultures, and traditions that comprise the church must be foundational in scope. The intent of the statement is not to avoid critical and specific issues the church and its members face. Rather, it recognizes the value of principles and values to guide behavior, equipping us to consider thoughtfully more-specific matters.
The strategy the Taskforce has adopted is to create a draft ethic, then work with people from around the church to respond to various local and international issues concerning sexuality, faith, and community. The ethic could serve as a resource for these discussions, together with scripture, experience, tradition, and other sources.
Specific issues have not been dealt with by the task force. That is the work for the next inter-Conference period. This will require broad and, in some instances, very local input.
Building on the work of the previous committees and input from various leadership and representative groups referred to above, the Extended World Church Leadership Council provided extensive discussion and feedback in September 2009. Subsequently, a draft Statement of Sexual Ethics was developed and has been delivered to the First Presidency for consideration.
Human Sexuality, Faith, and Community Team
Matthew Naylor, team lead