By Mike Davidson, Church of England Newspaper November 25 2011
Stuart Walton (CEN November 18) believes science has shown that “sexuality is mostly, perhaps even wholly genetic”. By contrast, the best Anglican survey prepared for Lambeth (2008), The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality, Philip Groves (ed) says (p281) that the impetus behind the search for genes associated with homosexuality “has lessened with the weakness of genetic links to HS implied by recent twin studies.”
The more recent (and most reliable) twin studies suggest a much lower genetic influence in homosexuality than earlier studies – the better the study the weaker the linkage. In Bailey et al  the doyen of twin study practitioners, Michael Bailey, says, “Although prior twin studies have been generally consistent in indicating a genetic contribution to male and female sexual orientation, they have also been rather consistent in their methodological limitations. Most importantly, all sizable twin studies of sexual orientation recruited probands by means of advertisements in homophile publications or by word of mouth.” This distorts the results. Bailey found that of twenty-seven pairs of identical twins of whom one was gay (at least 2 on a Kinsey scale of 0 – 6), in only three cases was the co-twin gay. In other words, if one identical twin was gay, the other rarely was. This makes a ‘gay gene’ improbable, invalidates the racial analogy and suggests the influence of psychosocial factors. Thus the Anglican book is justified in referring to “the weakness of genetic links”. Twin studies point us away from ‘nature’ causes in general, and it finds little support for other popular ‘nature’ theories such as the gay brain or maternal hormonal influence.
Clearly, if science is to explore all the options, it must look at ‘nurture’ as well as ‘nature’. This was the original intention for the book, but (perhaps in the rush to complete it for Lambeth?) the nurture dimension was overlooked. Thus, the scientific exploration is seriously incomplete.
But what might ‘nurture’ tell us? In some cases, what psychotherapists refer to as trans-generational trauma might account for various ideas and behaviours that appear completely normal to an individual, but which originate somewhere outside of the gene pool, and yet present themselves as natural and intrinsic. More generally, perhaps the most dramatic statement is found in a study of two million Danish people who had undertaken heterosexual or homosexual marriages or civil partnerships. The title of the study is itself startling: “Childhood Family Correlates of Heterosexual and Homosexual Marriages” . It found evidence that “childhood family experiences are important determinants of heterosexual and homosexual marriage decisions in adulthood.” Children’s life experiences may be so powerful as to influence whether they will ultimately marry a man or a woman. The implications of this are profound indeed.
For Stuart Walton, a disapproving church must explain why gay people should not “accept and enact the sexuality that the Lord God … has bestowed on them.” But science does not say that God made them that way. This accords with my own sense of being. I have lived with a homosexual drive for as long as I remember, but enactment of this experience of sexuality is not something I look for given the findings of science and the teachings of Jesus. This would hardly honour the loving marriage and family my wife and I have built. The church owes it to people like me to do good science
Of course the church should move away from oppression, discrimination and ungraciousness towards gay folk but an inclusive agenda will test itself against an unchanging call to holiness: “come out and be separate”. And it will respect those who journey out of homosexuality because of their own reading of science, scripture and conscience. It might give renewed attention to Jesus’ failure to change the rules when his Jewish hearers would without doubt have understood active homosexual expression to be forbidden.
The Anglican Communion needs to make a major investment in looking at the ‘nurture’ side of the debate. At present, this aspect has gone by default, but the evidence cries out to be heard. Until it is heard, the ‘inclusive’ agenda will continue to devalue the experience of people like me who choose to walk a different road.
CORE ISSUES TRUST
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