Sexuality and Global Faith Networks: A social topography
- Start date: 1 February 2008
- End date: 31 May 2010
- Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
- Partners and collaborators: Co-investigator: Kevin Ward (University of Leeds) Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Religion and Society Programme Large Research Grant
- External primary investigator:
Gill Valentine (University of Sheffield)
- Co-investigators: Professor Robert M Vanderbeck
This interdisciplinary project on sexuality and faith employs geographical theorisations of global networks and space to develop new insights into trans-national religious networks. Debates have raged within Christian churches over the morality of homosexuality, the recognition of same-sex unions, and the ordination of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people in which Christian pressure groups have sought to influence public debates on LGB rights/protections.
Christians who oppose homosexuality see it as undermining traditional values and exposing the bankruptcy of secular humanism. Homosexuality has become for many the key issue distinguishing between orthodoxy and a liberalism that erodes classical doctrine and ethics. In contrast, Christian supporters of gay rights understand their position as consistent with a Christian ethic emphasising liberation and concern for the marginalised.
The Anglican/Episcopal communion is an important touchstone for these debates since the 1998 Lambeth Conference (of bishops from the worldwide church) and the 2003 ordination of a gay bishop in the Episcopal Church of the United States. Partly propelled by alarm at what is perceived as the decline of the churches of the West because of the sexuality issue, and their increasing secularism, an impetus has developed amongst Anglican churches in Africa for a 'reverse mission' to the UK and US. It has resulted in the appointment, for example of Sandy Miller, the rector of a thriving Evangelical church in London, Holy Trinity Brompton, as a 'missionary bishop' of the Church of Uganda in Britain.
The project will adopt a social topographical approach as an innovative theoretical for examining the complex global network of the Anglican Communion, and how wider debates about sexuality have flowed across space and how responses are being formed within particular cultural/religious/economic milieus with particular (post)colonial histories.