Sexuality and the Church of England, 1918-1980

Authors: Ramsay, L.

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan


This book presents an original and archivally rich account of the Church of England’s institutional grappling with matters of sex, relationships, marriage, birth control, and same-sex attraction between 1918 and 1980, uncovering a long and complex history of debates and disagreements that led to its present-day impasse over issues of sexuality. Across a long and previously underexplored chronology, the book examines various ways in which Anglicans shaped and popularised understandings of sex and desire, conceptions of sexual morality, and notions of sexual citizenship. Its account begins in the interwar years when the church exerted a powerful influence on attitudes and approaches towards sex and morality, moves through the challenges of the post-war years when Anglicans continued to debate and construct the new moral landscape of the permissive society, and ends in the late twentieth century when the church’s preferred means of functioning as an agent of mediation ultimately meant it lost pace with new approaches towards sexual identities and relationships. Despite its historically established role in guiding the nation, by the late 1970s, the church had unwittingly painted itself into a corner by provoking internal disputes that it struggled to resolve. As its compromise positions became outdated, the church’s views increasingly fell out of favour and contributed to its gradual demise as a former expert on sexual issues.

Source: Manual