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Tauiwi Human Sexuality Workgroup

Tauiwi Human Sexuality Workgroup

The Tauiwi Human Sexuality Work group exists in order to provide the Connexion with resources relating to Human Sexuality - All in the context of our Church's history, understanding and distinctive qualities. The purpose of the THS Work group is to promote safe and open conversation, in an attempt to better understand a diversity of views currently held across the different contexts of Te Haahi Weteriana. 

Working Definitions to Assist the conversation on Sexuality

  • Gender

    The concept of gender refers to qualities, traits, and activities collectively deemed to be masculine or feminine in any particular society. Although “things feminine” are associated with females and “things masculine” are associated with males, sex and gender are quite distinct.

    The content of masculinity and femininity does not have an immediate biological foundation, despite the fact that gender defines what it means to be a male or female in a social sense.

    Gender is a categorisation based not on physiological but on social attributes.

    The social significance attached to being female or male and the use of gender as a component of social structures varies between societies and over time.

  • Sex

    in reference to the categories “male and female”, is purely physiological. It refers to biological attributes which for the vast majority of the population can be simply ascertained by observing the nature of individuals’ reproductive sex characteristics.

    Individuals may be born female or male but they have to become masculine or feminine.

    Societies socialise their members into gender roles and expectations and they associate various traits and qualities with gender categories. The very fact that these roles, expectations, traits, and qualities vary from society to society and over time, indicates the real but often hidden disjunction between sex and gender.

  • Sexuality

    The totality of being a sexual person, including feelings about being male or female, relationships, roles and sexual activity. Our way of being in the world as embodied selves, male and female. (Uniting Church of Australia Report on Sexuality, 9)

  • Erotic Attraction

    What people find to be sexually arousing in a person (Uniting Church…, 9)

  • Sexual Orientation

    The direction of a person’s erotic attraction. (Uniting Church…, 9).

    Includes: 1. Arousal patterns, 2. Affective preferences, 3. Behaviour (patterns of physical contact with others.)

    Of the 3 aspects of orientation, behaviour can be separated out insofar as it is voluntaristic. One cannot choose not to be aroused by or to “feel” drawn to others. Such an electric charge simply happens. One can however choose whether to nurture or repress how and when to act on these impulses and feelings. Recognising the distinction between orientation in its first 2 aspects and behaviour shape moral arguments.

  • Sexual Identity

    Consists of a number of components. Includes: Individuals biological sex, his/her gender identification (sense of being male or female), the persons social sex role (the cultural definition of being male or female), and the person’s sexual orientation.

  • Heterosexual

    A person who has an erotic attraction to and a preference for members of the opposite sex. (Uniting Church…, 9) The term is an abstract construction that derives its meaning in part from its contrast to homosexuality. A shorthand way to label certain aspects of human sexuality.

  • Bisexual

    A person who has an erotic attraction to members of both sexes. (Uniting Church…, 9)

  • Homosexual

    A person who has an erotic attraction to and a preference for members of the same sex. (Uniting Church…, 9)

  • Heterosexism

    a reasoned system of bias regarding sexual orientation. Denotes prejudice in favour of heterosexual people and connotes prejudice against bisexual and especially homosexual people. Heterosexism is not grounded primarily in emotional fears, hatreds, or other visceral responses to homosexuality. Instead it is rooted in a larger cognitive constellation of beliefs about human sexuality. Analogous to racism and sexism. [1]

  • Heterocentrism

    lies at the heart of this prejudice. Is the conviction that heterosexuality is the normative form of human sexuality. It is the measure by which all other sexual orientations are judged. All sexual authority, value, and power are centred in heterosexuality.

    Heterocentrism has dictated both the content and structure of the debate in ways that make it impossible for us to see homosexuality as anything other than an aberration. [2]


We need a variety of words to converse about our same-sex and different-sex attractions and behaviours. We need to find a way around the assumption of the normative character of heterosexuality. It is this premise that imprisons enquiry and thwarts open dialogue.

[1] Jung, Patricia Beattie. Heterosexism: An Ethical Challenge. New York: State University of New York, 1993, 14.
[2] Ibid., 14.

Helpful Resources

There are many resources exploring Biblical views of sexuality, LGBTQ stories and experiences and the history of debates about sexuality in church and society. The following are a selection of some accessible resources that might help people to reflect on these issues.

Alan Brash, Facing Our Differences: The Churches and Their Gay and Lesbian Members, WCC, Geneva, 1995

(nearly twenty-five years old but still an excellent short introduction which includes an examination of key Biblical texts)

For The Bible Tells Me So, A film by Daniel Karslake, 2007

(looks at issues of sexuality through the experiences of five American Christian families)

Terry Stewart, Invisible Families, New Women’s Press, Dunedin, 1993

(a New Zealand book written by the mother of a gay son and very much from a parent’s viewpoint)

Liz Lightfoot, Outspoken: Coming Out in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, Otago University Press, Dunedin, 2011

(the stories of lay and ordained gay and lesbian people in the Anglican Church in New Zealand)

Karen P. Oliveto, Our Strangely Warmed Hearts: Coming Out Into God’s Call, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2018

(written by a bishop of the United Methodist Church (USA), a reflection on issues of sexuality in the American church)


(website of the It gets Better Project, a world-wide LGBTQ campaign designed to uplift, empower and connect young people. The site contains over 60,000 personal video stories affirming that life gets better.)