Human sexuality, scientific research and the church

September 29th, 2017

As The United Methodist Church prepares for a special session of General Conference in early 2019 to receive and act on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the 32-member Commission on a Way Forward, conversations having been popping up about how much of a role scientific research on human sexuality should play in the church’s debate on same-sex relationships.

At least one Annual Conference (Mississippi) dealt with a proposed resolution on the topic during its 2017 session. The resolution was tabled along with all items dealing with similar subject matter, but the conference is following up the resolution by identifying a committee to study a juried article by medical professionals published last year in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

According to MSAC member and Millsaps College Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies T.W. Lewis, this committee will have a threefold aim: “to provide an opportunity in this divisive culture for Mississippi United Methodists to work together in studying the findings of medical science on sexual orientation; to learn what those findings can lead us to understand about sexual orientation; and to prepare our congregations for the discussions anticipated in 2019 General Conference with the most informed understanding possible.”

Dr. Lewis added, “We anticipate a summary report of the AC committee will be presented at the 2018 Mississippi Annual Conference. The AC committee is not to address the Disciplinary position on sexual orientation in order to keep the focus on the wisdom of medical science.”

The PSITP article is available free online and provides an up-to-date summary of scientific findings on sexual orientation. The primary focus of the article is causation, and the authors include information on hormonal, genetic and environmental influences.

The special General Conference of The United Methodist Church is scheduled to take place February 23-26 in St. Louis, Missouri.

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