Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Progressive Catholic Group Ordaining Transgender Priest

The North American Old Catholic Church is ordaining Shannon T.L. Kearns, a trans man, later this month. Kearns (right) will be responsible for starting a new parish in Minneapolis. Shannon-T.L.-Kearns

“The North American Old Catholic Church looks forward to establishing a presence in Minneapolis with the ordination of Father Kearns,” said Bishop Benjamin Evans, who is presiding over the ordination on January 19. “God’s Holy Spirit continues to bless us with growth.”

Founded in 2007, the North American Old Catholic Church has a mission of social justice, does not submit to the authority of the Pope, and is open to female and LGBT clergy.

“I am honored and humbled to have my calling to ministry affirmed by the North American Old Catholic Church,” says Kearns, who transitioned while studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York. “I look forward to many years serving as a priest.

via  Queerty.

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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Do gays need a church of their own anymore?

Gay-centered church founded in 1960s debates role given recent progress for gay rights

On that Sunday in 1968 when Troy Perry borrowed a minister's robe and started a church for gays in his living room, the world was a very different place.
Perry's Metropolitan Community Churches was then a lone spiritual refuge for openly gay Christians, an idea so far from the mainstream that the founders were often chased from places where they tried to worship. Four decades later, some of the most historically important American denominations, which had routinely expelled gays and lesbians, are welcoming them instead.
MCC now has a presence in dozens of U.S. states as well as overseas, reporting a total membership of more than 240 congregations and ministries. But as acceptance of same-sex relationships grows gay and lesbian clergy in many Protestant traditions no longer have to hide their partners or lose their careers, and Christians can often worship openly with their same-gender spouses in the mainline Protestant churches where they were raised the fellowship is at a crossroads.
Is a gay-centered Christian church needed anymore?
"There are many more options than there used to be," said the Rev. Nancy Wilson, moderator, or leader, of the Metropolitan Community Churches. "But there is not a mass exodus."
The denomination has never been gays-only. But for a long time, straight allies were scarce.
The founding congregation, MCC of Los Angeles, opened a year before the Stonewall riots in New York. Few people had ever heard the argument that the Bible sanctioned same-gender relationships and no one of any influence in the religious world was saying it. MCC congregations became targets of arson, violence, pickets and, in at least one case, a vice squad.
Al Smithson, a founder in 1969 of the fellowship's San Diego church, said his pastor would point to Orange County's famous Crystal Cathedral and joke that he was praying for a bulletproof version.
The church today is a bit more diverse. MCC pastors say they see a growing number of straight friends and relatives of gays and lesbians among their new congregants, along with heterosexual parents who want their children raised in a gay-affirming environment. While some MCC congregations haven't changed much over the decades, Wilson said, many are emphasizing a broad social justice agenda including serving the homeless and poor.
"We don't have a rainbow flag on our website, nor do we have it on our building," said the Rev. Dan Koeshall, senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of San Diego, which draws about 220 people for Sunday services.
"It wasn't a decision that caused any controversy or split. It's just been moving in that direction. We know that our target audience is the LGBT community. But we're also attracting people who are saying, 'Yes, I stand in solidarity with you and I want to be part of this.'"
It's remarkable the denomination has endured at all. Metropolitan Community Churches brings together many different Christian traditions under one banner that often struggle to stay friendly in the outside world. Perry, now 72 and retired, is a Pentecostal who started preaching when he was just a teenager in rural Florida. The Rev. Mona West, the fellowship's director of clergy training, graduated from the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. But a large number of MCC clergy train in liberal Protestant seminaries. The common denominator is a belief that Christians can be in a same-sex relationship and still be faithful to Scripture.
"You can go from one MCC to another and have a radically different flavor, depending on the region, the clergy and congregants," said Scott Thumma, a Hartford Seminary sociologist and co-editor of the book "Gay Religion."
The fellowship expanded relatively quickly from its humble beginnings. Within months of founding the first congregation in Los Angeles, Perry started receiving letters and visits from people hoping to establish MCC churches in other cities. Two years later, new congregations had formed as far away as Florida. Within five years, the church had spread overseas.
Then, the 1980s arrived and with it, the AIDS crisis. Metropolitan Community Churches plowed its resources into ministries for the sick, dying and grieving. The fellowship lost several thousand members and clergy to the virus, and the business of starting new churches slowed. As a result, Wilson and others say the denomination missed out on crucial period for potential growth.
But the church has also lost some congregations, including its biggest, to other denominations. The Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, a megachurch with about 4,200 members, split off around 2003, and eventually joined the United Church of Christ. Cathedral and MCC officials say the break resulted from disagreements between local church members and local leaders, not a rejection of MCC's mission. The Cathedral maintains its focus on reaching out to gays, lesbians and transgender people.
Still, the United Church of Christ, which has more than 5,000 congregations and roots in colonial New England, can offer much that the MCC cannot, including more resources, greater prominence and a broader reach. In some communities, local churches are affiliating with both the Metropolitan Community Churches and United Church of Christ. But at least one other MCC congregation broke away in recent years: The Columbia, S.C., church became the Garden of Grace United Church of Christ.
"It makes us more than a one-issue church," the Rev. Andy Sidden, the church's pastor, told The State newspaper of Columbia, in a 2006 interview.
Like many other churches coping with a weak economy, the MCC has cut or restructured staff jobs in the last five years and reduced the annual payment congregations pay the national office, Wilson said. Some smaller MCC churches have closed.
Yet, despite the losses, Wilson and others see a continuing role for Metropolitan Community Churches, given the wide range of responses to gays and lesbians in organized religion, even in the more liberal churches that have moved toward accepting same-gender relationships.
Of the mainline Protestant groups, only the United Church of Christ supports gay marriage outright. The Episcopal Church last month released a provisional prayer service for blessing same-sex unions. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have eliminated barriers for gay clergy but allow regional and local church officials to decide their own policies. One of the largest mainline groups, the United Methodist Church, with about 7.8 million U.S. members, still bars ordination for people in same-sex relationships, although many individual Methodist churches openly accept gay and lesbian clergy.
"There's 'Come and don't say anything,' 'Come, but we won't marry you,' or 'Come and be fully accepted,'" said the Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor of the Cathedral of Hope. "We're always glad when churches welcome gay and lesbian people, but it's just a different experience in a church that is historically and predominantly led by heterosexual people. Everyone is going to find the church where they most fit in."
Wilson said a large percentage of newer MCC members are from conservative Christian churches teaching that gay and lesbian Christians should try to become heterosexual or remain celibate. Koeshall was a pastor in the Assemblies of God, one of the largest U.S.-based Pentecostal groups, until 1997, when he says, "I came out and I got kicked out."
New MCC congregations have recently started in Peoria, Ill., and in The Villages retirement community north of Orlando, Fla. (In a recent announcement in local gay media, the Peoria congregation described MCC as a fellowship created for gay and lesbian Christians now known as "the human rights church.") Mary Metcalf, 62, a seven-year member of Heartland Metropolitan Community Church in Springfield, Ill., which started the Peoria congregation, said she was a lector and liturgy coordinator at her Roman Catholic parish until some friends brought her to a service.
"When it came time for communion, when the presider said that the table is open to everyone, I started crying," said Metcalf, on a break from painting Heartland church with other volunteers. "I came from the Catholic Church. I'm straight, but I just finally had to come to a parting of the ways. I didn't think Jesus kept anyone away from the table."
Still, like most denominations, MCC is seeing its strongest growth overseas. In Latin America, the fellowship had seven churches in five countries a decade ago, and now reports 56 congregations or ministries in 17 countries, according to the Rev. Darlene Garner, director of MCC's emerging ministries. A congregation in Australia for young adults, called Crave, is thriving, Wilson said. Garner's office is also developing an online church with worship, Bible study and support in several languages. MCC has already conducted its first virtual baptism on the web, a relatively new practice that is gaining popularity among evangelical churches with online worship.
Thumma contends MCC should not be judged by the standards used for other denominations. Only a small percentage of Americans are gay or lesbian, and a limited number want to be active in a Christian church, no matter its outlook. Like other minority groups moving toward mainstream acceptance, some gay Christians are assimilating into bigger denominations while others choose the focus and freedoms MCC provides, Thumma said.
"MCC still has a clear function," Thumma said. "Like an immigrant community, it gives gay Christians a place of their own."

Friday, 28 December 2012

Response to Benedict: Dutch Gay Catholics De-Baptize Themselves

Thousands of Dutch Catholics are researching how they can leave the church in protest at its opposition to gay marriage, according to the creator of a website aimed at helping them find the information.

Tom Roes, whose website allows people to download the documents needed to leave the church, said traffic on - "" - had soared from about 10 visits a day to more than 10,000 after Pope Benedict's latest denunciation of gay marriage this month.

"Of course it's not possible to be 'de-baptized' because a baptism is an event, but this way people can unsubscribe or de-register themselves as Catholics," Roes told Reuters.

He said he did not know how many visitors to the site actually go ahead and leave the church.

- more at Huffington Post

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Italian bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini from Locri-Gerace recognizes that gay couples 'should claim some rights, but they can not ask for marriage'


 18 DECEMBER 2012 | BY DANIELE GUIDO GESSA Photo by DaffyDuke

An Italian Catholic bishop said that ‘same-sex couples should have their civil rights recognized.’ Bishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini, who is in charge of the Locri-Gerace area in Calabria, recognized same-sex couples’ rights in a letter sent to the churches of his area.

Such a recognition by the Catholic hierarchy is uncommon, but bishop Morosini added: ‘However, same-sex couples are not families. We can not give them the right to a regular marriage.
‘We believe in God and we have to respect the Christian values and rules. I suggest you defend these ideas strongly.'

The Italian Church is analyzing the possibility of a new Italian government wanting to give same-sex couples some rights. The next general elections will be held in spring. Morosini added: 
‘A marriage is a union between a man and a woman, but every couple should have civil rights.’

His stance has been welcomed by Italian LGBT associations, even though the Italian gay movement has condemned his call for ‘traditional’ marriage.Calabria is one of the less gay-friendly regions in Italy. Only a few LGBT associations operate in this area.
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Friday, 14 December 2012

The Rainbow Sash Movement (Lesbian/Gay Catholics) challenges the policy arm of the Catholic Church in Illinois when that Conference makes the claim that it represents nearly 4 million Catholics in the State of Illinois on the issue of Gay Marriage; such a claim is not based in reality.


The Illinois Catholic Conference also states that marriage is unique because it's a union between two genders and "same-sex marriage goes against nature." This is another example of hierarchal bias of basic human rights and fairness for LGBT people. It is not reasonable to deny the evolution of marriage over the centuries with divorce and remarriage being the most obvious example of such evolution.

The Rainbow Sash Movement finds it difficult understand why the Illinois Catholic Conference would align itself with an organization which is part of the ex-gay movement to promote their anti-gay agenda. Courage was founded by Fr. John Harveybased on the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and understands sexual orientation of the LGBT Community as a disease to be cured. The attempt to promote such bigotry under their conference is in our opinion not only offensive to the LGBT Community and most reasonable people, but is also lacking in any significant pastoral intent.

The promotion of such ideas by the Illinois Catholic Conference that love is an abomination when Lesbian and Gay couples practice it in Gay Marriage has its origins in ancient taboos, not nature. This only highlights how out of touch Catholic leaders are with the views of pew-sitting Catholics when it comes to Gay Marriage.

At issue is how to balance competing rights—to freedom of religious expression and freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We believe it would be unfortunate to replace legal oppression of one community (LGBT couples) with legal oppression of another (Illinois Catholic Conference), and current Gay Marriage legislation to be introduced in January 2013 has built in protections to make sure this does not happen.

We want to remind our leaders the principles of our faith and church are based on: forgiveness, love, mercy and charity. Not the flawed opinions of men - even those in the church hierarchy. We are calling on our Bishops to refocus their attention on caring for the poor and vulnerable

The Rainbow Sash Movement believes that the Catholic Conference of Illinois has a right to create its own definition of the sacrament of marriage, but not to impose those beliefs on the people of Illinois who understand this as a question of basic fairness and social justice.

Perhaps it is time for the Church to remove itself from Civil Marriage if it cannot tolerate marriage equality which is defined by the state, and focus rather on sacramental marriage which is defined by the Church. The Catholic Conference of Illinois is stepping over the line when it tells non Catholic Churches who they can and cannot marry.

It is time to pass Gay Marriage in Illinois.
SOURCE Rainbow Sash Movement
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Friday, 16 March 2012

Episcopalians release same-sex marriage rites

While Catholic bishops in the UK and the US are digging in their heels against marriage equality, the American Episcopal church is (very sensibly) looking ahead, to the inevitable day when they will recognize the need to do away with marriage discrimination in their own church (as some local jurisdictions have already done).  
After several years of study, the Episcopal Church has released a draft of what same-sex marriage rites would look like. An important caveat: these are just drafts, and it will likely be years before any final liturgy is approved for official use across the church.
Episcopalians in states that allow same-sex civil marriage (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland and others) already have the option to bless same-sex marriages but there is no formal churchwide liturgy. Same-sex commitment ceremonies are permitted elsewhere in the church at the discretion of the local bishop.
From the church's Office of Public Affairs:
The report’s theological reflection notes that the SCLM [Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music] has reviewed more than 30 years of General Convention’s deliberation on same-gender couples, especially [a] resolution approved in 2000, that identified characteristics the Church expects of couples living in marriage and other lifelong committed relationships: “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”
“Such covenantal relationships can reflect God‘s own gracious covenant with us in Christ, manifest the fruits of the Spirit in holiness of life, and model for the whole community the love of neighbor in the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation,”  the report states.
- Religion News Service
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Reform Jews Back Gay Marriage, Denounce Cardinal O'Brien

The Reform movement has branded as "inflammatory" an attack on same-sex marriage by one of Britain's leading Catholic clerics.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, described plans to legalise gay marriage as "madness" and a "grotesque subvesion".
But Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, movement rabbi for Reform Judaism, said that the cardinal's comments were "inflammatory and incitement to homophobia which can have grave consequences".

Jewish women under a Beverley Hills chuppah in 2008 

Reform welcomed the proposed legislation, she said. "A recognition of equality of marriage for homosexuals as well as heterosexuals can only strengthen society and the institution of marriage."
Rabbi Colin Eimer, who chaired a working party on the issue for the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK, said: "Religious ceremonies exist in Jewish life for heterosexual couples to express their love, commitment, values and ideals. We believe that homosexual couples should have that same opportunity for a religious ceremony within the sanctity of Jewish community, tradition and practice."
One commonly heard argument for opposition to equality is that it is an attack on freedom of religion. It is not, as this example and the one below clearly show. It in fact supports religious freedom - freedom for the increasing number of religious groups that wish to minister to all in their congregations, without discrimination.