A storm of protest in Britain has followed publication by the Student Christian Movement Press of Sex and Morality (see previous issue, page 34). The furor tended to divert attention from other facts almost as significant as the contents of the booklet.

In 1964 a working party was set up by the British Council of Churches. Its terms of reference: “To prepare a statement of the Christian case for abstinence from sexual intercourse before marriage and faithfulness within marriage, taking full account of responsible criticisms, and to suggest means whereby the Christian position may be effectively presented to the various sections of the community.”

This seemed clear enough. Has the brief been fulfilled? No, admits the working party, whose report challenges the idea that there is a “Christian position” at all. So we encounter the first odd feature. Whether the terms of reference prejudged the issue or not does not concern us; these were given to and accepted by the working party. If they were later seen to be untenable, surely the honest thing would have been to refer back misgivings to the parent body and ask for guidance. This was not done, and so far as the brief is concerned some of the material produced is as irrelevant as a list of the kings of Judah.

A second curious note is the composition of the working party. There were a Taizé monk, a Methodist deaconess, two teachers, a radical Christian journalist, a lady author, a university medical officer, a family-planning-association man, a geneticist, and an Oxford clergyman who lectures in philosophy. A ministerial member of the BCC staff was secretary, a Methodist minister was chairman. The Chancellor of Wells was a consultant member.

There was, not surprisingly, no Roman Catholic ...

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