Resolved, the House of ____________ concurring, That the 79th General Convention acknowledge and minister to the growing number of persons entering into sexually intimate relationships other than marriage by calling for the development of resources that provide pastoral guidance and teaching on relationships that involve sexual expression; and be it further
Resolved, That the following statement guide the development of these resources: “Qualities of relationship that ground in faithfulness the expression of sexual intimacy include: fidelity, monogamy, commitment, mutual affection, mutual respect, careful and honest communication, physical maturity, emotional maturity, mutual consent, and the holy love which enables those in intimate relationships to see in each other the image of God”; and be it further
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention provide guidance to persons seeking to honor God’s call in all aspects of their lives by calling for the development of resources, including but not limited to spiritual practices, to aid individuals and couples in discerning their vocation to relationship, be it to singleness, celibacy, marriage and/or parenting; and be it further
Resolved, That the Presiding Officers of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies appoint jointly a task force to develop these resources; and be it further
Resolved, That the task force report and offer these resources to the 80th General Convention for their consideration; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention request that the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance consider a budget allocation of $30,000 for the implementation of this resolution.
In 2016, the number of U.S. adults in cohabiting relationships was eighteen (18) million persons. This represents an increase in cohabiters of twenty-nine (29) percent over a nine (9) year period. In 2016, persons aged fifty (50) and older accounted for twenty-three (23) percent of cohabiters, or roughly 4.1 million persons. This represents a seventy-five (75) percent increase in older cohabiters over a nine (9) year period.* Over the past fifty (50) years cohabitation in the U.S. has increased nearly nine hundred (900) percent.** Clearly the number of persons in sexually intimate relationships outside of marriage is increasing rapidly. Yet when it comes to nuanced and sensitive guidance and teaching regarding sexual intimacy, many people feel largely alone, having found the Church’s counsel to remain sexually abstinent outside of marriage, insufficient and unreflective of their experience of the holy in relationship. This resolution calls on the church to develop resources that provide pastoral guidance and teaching on relationships that involve sexual expression. These resources may be used by individuals or couples, they may be used by Church small groups or in college chaplaincies, they may be used by middle-aged or mature Christians who are seeking guidance and direction as they seek to live in a way that is both faithful to God and expressive of the love and commitment they deeply feel.
In the work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage in this triennium, a number of qualities have come to the fore that ground the expression of sexual intimacy in faithfulness. This resolution directs a task force to use these qualities as a foundation to guide the development of pastoral guidance and teaching on relationships that involve sexual expression.
God’s call pervades all aspects of our lives, including our relationships. We may have a vocation to a state of relationship, be it singleness, celibacy or marriage; we may be called to form particular relationships with specific people, as God called Joseph, Guardian of Our Lord, to be Mary’s husband (Matthew 1:18-25). Parenthood was once taken for granted as an inseparable part of marriage, but is now a choice—one that can sometimes involve the physically, emotionally, and financially costly processes of adoption or assisted reproduction. As with any vocation, God’s call to relationship requires careful, ongoing discernment. Also, God’s call to us can change over the course of our lives. A person called to singleness as a young adult may be called to marriage in middle age, or a person called to marriage may be called to singleness after the death of a spouse. This resolution would lead to the creation of resources, including spiritual practices of listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit, that can be used by individuals and couples, with the help of their faith communities, to discern their vocation to relationship.
* Pew Research Center: “Number of U.S. adults cohabiting with a partner continues to rise, especially among those 50 and older. Renee Stepler. April 6, 2017. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/06/number-of-u-s-adults-cohabiting-with-a-partner-continues-to-rise-especially-among-those-50-and-older/ last accessed November 11, 2017.
** Reports to the 79th General Convention, otherwise known as the 2015 Blue Book Reports. Report of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage: Essay 7, Section 5. Page 575.