Saturday, 30 April 2011

New Books Explore Homosexuality and the Church

The first notable books on theology appeared something like forty years ago. Since then, the early thin trickle has become a steady stream, as Publishers Weekly has observed:
Religious movements often build on a variety of texts: key scriptures, treatises, tales of pioneers and heroes. For gay Christians, the time has come to fill in a few gaps, and publishers are eager to contribute.
Recent and forthcoming releases help develop what have been seen, at least in gay circles, as categories needing further exploration. The trend equips readers to wrestle anew with questions of scriptural interpretation, biblical authority, and what it means to love one’s neighbor.
The listing  covers work by people of a refreshing range of backgrounds: straight allies as well as gay, young and old, Evangelical, Mainline Protestant and Catholic. One disappointment? Only one woman is represented - but an important one, Carter Heyward.
These are the books discussed, together with some notes by the publishers:

Jimmy Creech, a United Methodist pastor in North Carolina, was visited one morning in 1984 by Adam, a longtime parishioner whom he liked and respected. Adam said that he was gay, and that he was leaving the The United Methodist Church, which had just pronounced that no “self-avowed practicing homosexual” could be ordained. He would not be part of a community that excluded him. Creech found himself instinctively supporting Adam, telling him that he was sure that God loved and accepted him as he was. Adam’s Gift is Creech’s inspiring first-person account of how that conversation transformed his life and ministry.
Adam’s visit prompted Creech to re-evaluate his belief that homosexuality was a sin, and to research the scriptural basis for the church’s position. He determined that the church was mistaken, that scriptural translations and interpretations had been botched and dangerously distorted. As a Christian, Creech came to believe that discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people was morally wrong. This understanding compelled him to perform same-gender commitment ceremonies, which conflicted with church directives. Creech was tried twice by The United Methodist Church, and, after the second trial, his ordination credentials were revoked. Adam’s Gift is a moving story and an important chapter in the unfinished struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil and human rights.

Friday, 29 April 2011

"We Are the Church": Sr Jeannine Gramick

“I think the best way we convey how we believe is not words; it’s the way we act,” Sr Gramick told students at Columbia Collegege Chicago April 1. Gramick said lay Catholics are far ahead of Catholic leaders on gay issues.
“This happens in a lot of religious traditions, where the people lead their religious leaders,” Gramick said. “The real people who matter are the people in these religious institutions who may not be the leaders, the people in the pews.” The Catholic Church would better fulfil its mission, Gramick said, by listening to those people and meeting them without judgment.
“When we say ‘church,’ most of us most of the time really mean ‘church leaders.’ I’d like to get back to the people. It’s really the people in the church,” Gramick said. “The church needs to have a little conversion, and we have to realize that we are the church.”

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Mexican Welcome for Gay, Lesbian Catholics

The Changing Tone of Catholic Bishops' Responses to Homosexuality

Last year, I reported on statements by a series of bishops which pointed a change in tone from Church authorities on responses to homoerotic love. This began almost a year ago with Cardinal Schonborn's observation that it was time to shift the emphasis from an obsession with "homosexual acts" to a consideration of the quality of our relationships. This was followed by similar statements by several others, and by explicit support by the two most senior bishops for the Soho Masses for LGBT Catholics. In recent months, other bishops have also been emphasising that sexual minorities must be made welcome in Church - the Philippine Bishops' Conference, and Cardinal Pell in Sydney. Last month, the diocese of Los Angeles ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics were given recognition and space at the important conference on religious education. In Mexico, a diocesan-sponsored conference last month went further than any previous initiative by the institutional church to promote queer inclusion in church.
The Diocese of Saltillo recently held the "Fourth Sexual Diversity, Family and Religion Forum" and now sponsors a ministry for homosexuals that promotes the ideas of providing gays and lesbians with expanded legal protections and human rights -- along with an expanded sense of dignity for individuals whose emergence from the margins of society has caused conflict for many Catholics.

Oakland Priest Protests the Church Exclusion of Marginalized: Women, Abuse Survivors, Gays

When the California Catholic Daily objects to something in the news, I often find it's a good reason to track down the source.
In this case, their outrage was at an opinion piece in the Oakland Tribune by a local priest, Fr Tim Stier, who has placed himself in what he calls "voluntary exile", protesting weekly outside the Oakland cathedral at the failures of the church, and its treatment of marginalized groups. CCD thinks this is a scandal. I am impressed at the courage and sacrifice of this prophetic witness against the real scandal, the failure of the Church to take seriously the Gospel message of inclusion for all.

Former priest Tim Stier, of Oakland, speaks to the media near the steps of the Cathedral of Christ the Light on Sunday, April 11, 2010 in Oakland, Calif. Stier, who served for 25 years as a priest in five parishes in the Diocese of Oakland, spoke about former East Bay priest Stephen Kiesle. In a 1985 letter obtained by the Associated Press, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, delayed a decision to defrock Kiesle, citing concerns for the church. 

AS A Catholic priest in voluntary exile from the Diocese of Oakland since March 15, 2005, I decided a year ago to stand in public solidarity with those being hurt the most by my church. Every Sunday I stand outside Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland with a sign that reads: "Structural reform now! Include the Excluded: Women, Abuse Survivors, Gay Persons."
One recent Sunday a young man approached, read my sign and said to me: "I have a better wording for your sign: (expletive) the pope." Another passerby said to me, "Why reform the Catholic Church? Why not just shut it down?"
It's hard to hear such extreme criticism of the church I love, but in light of what I know, it is justified. The recent grand jury report out of Philadelphia resulting in the arrests of four priests and the removal of 24 more makes clear that the unspeakable crimes against children and youth and their cover-up by bishops continue unabated.
Philadelphia is not atypical; it just happens to have a courageous district attorney (a practicing Catholic no less). The Catholic Church is in a state of collapse due to an institutional culture defined by secrecy, elitism and denial.
When I listen to Catholic bishops of late, I find myself wondering what planet these men inhabit. The current bishop of the Oakland Diocese, Salvatore Cordileone, is obsessed with saving California from what he sees as the grave threat of gay marriage.
(Read the full article at Oakland Tribune)
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Religious Leaders Support Mass. Transgender Protection Bill

Religious leaders are far too often more eager to oppose than promote civil protection or inclusion in faith for sexual minorities. There are an increasing number now speaking up for lesbian and gay rights - but not usually for the trans community. In Massachusetts, there is an exception (particularly welcome in this (Transgender Faith Action Week), as the Boston Globe reports:

Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and several other clergy yesterday called on Massachusetts lawmakers to pass transgender-rights legislation and asked religious communities to throw their support behind the bill.
Shaw said that virtually all transgender people have experienced discrimination or harassment and about one-quarter have been fired from their jobs.
“Supporting this legislation, and supporting transgender people in the life of the church and in secular society really has to do with the living out of my baptismal covenant,’’ he said.
The bill would prohibit discrimination in Massachusetts against transgender people in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and credit, and would expand the hate- crimes statute. Thirteen states and more than 130 cities nationwide have passed similar legislation.
(Full report at Boston Globe)

Seven Trans Gifts For the Church

In Trans/formations (Scm Controversies in Contexual Theology Series), Virginia Ramy Mollenkott reflects on the gifts of the three magi who brought their gifts to the infant Jesus, and recalls Nancy Wilson's thesis that they were more likely to have been women or eunuchs. (Mollenkott's own guess is that they were people who would no be called transwomen). She goes on to describe the seven spiritual gifts that modern transgendered people similarly bring to the Church today.

These are:
  • Any faith-congregation that honours the bible should also homour transgender people because both the Hebrew and Chrstian Scriptures are extraordinarily transgender friendly. The gift here is that congregations will be empowered to see the Bible with a whole new perspective.
  • Transpeople will assist congregations in transcending gender stereotypes that alienate men from women and their bodies, and poppress women and girls all over the world.
  • The transgender presence is a constant reminder of human diversity and hence of the much-needed diversity in religious language about God, the divine mystery that is beyond human imaginings and limitations.
  • Until our recent cultural blindness, transpeople were always recognized as being specially gifted at building bridges between the seen and the unseen worlds, time and eternity; and many still carry that ability
  • Transpeople have by hte circumstances of our lives been forced to become specialists in the connections between gender, sexualitym spirituality and justice, and many congregations are iun desperaate need of our assistance in making those connections.
  • Because we embody the "forgotten middle - ground" or "ambiguity", transpeople can help to heal religious addictions to certainty - addictions that are threatening the survival of our planet.
  • Transpeople incarnate the concept that jsut as all races are "one blood", all genders and sexualities are one continuun" - and that one blood and one continuumare sacred, made in the holy, divine image.
Althaus-Reid, Marcella and Isherwood, Lisa: Trans/formations
Mollenkott, Virginia: Transgender Journeys
Mollenkott, Virginia: Sensuous Spirituality

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Homosexual Acts

Stand up!

Recently, the Irish LGBT support organisation BeLonGTo produced what is, to my mind, a simple yet pointed awareness video against homophobic bullying. Stand up! Don’t stand for homophobic bullying has been doing the rounds on the internet, but if you haven’t seen it yet, then here it is:

What really struck me in the advert is the simple gesture of holding hands. Simple, that is, if one is straight. Things are more complicated if you’re gay and you’re holding the hands of someone of your own sex. And you’d really be asking for it if you dared to act further on your feelings and decide to kiss this same person on the lips, and perhaps embrace him or her. Even if I were to make allowance for cultural variances and how public displays of love and romance are received, the fact is that gays face a tough battle if they dare express their love in public. Why are such acts deemed to be so offensive as to provoke hostile reactions? Why should the simple gesture of two men holding each other’s hand unleash such hatred as to lead to bullying or even gay-bashing? If you think it’s far-fetched, have a look at this. (Via Joe.My.God.)

Hiding our love

Objectors will say that we gays are never satisfied with what is given to us: isn’t it enough that we obtain the same rights as the remainder of society? Do we have to flout our behaviour? To which I must obviously reply by asking: why should I have to hide my love for fear of being attacked? Why do I have to look over my shoulder or control myself in an exaggerated way so as to prevent others around me from seeing any displays of affection for another person of the same sex? If a straight couple can go around freely holding hands, or snogging or what have you, without fear of being bashed or bullied, then gays and lesbians should be similarly treated. That such is not usually the case, except in limited places or during certain events (like a pride parade), exposes the deep roots of homophobia that need to be pulled up. However, the story doesn’t end here; I would like to raise some other issues.

The Catholic Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church §2357-59) and the Christian right hide their homophobia behind their stance on homosexual acts – by which we generally understand them to mean genital acts – because such acts are deemed to be unnatural and non-procreative (and therefore unnatural, hence the tautology). Even if one were to refrain from commenting about the absurdity behind this reductionist approach to sex (not least because it is so genitally-focussed), there are still other issues to contend with here. First of all, there’s the absence of the language of love in the argument that is raised by this group, and secondly, if I may ask, where are we to draw a line? Which acts would amount to homosexual acts, and which acts are deemed acceptable by the morality police? Perhaps the Church hierarchy and their right-wing sidekicks can explain to the rest of us whether or not holding hands and kissing or cuddling are deemed to be homosexual acts, and therefore highly reprehensible. Perhaps they can go further and try to give us their views, obviously backed by scripture and church tradition, about this degenerate behaviour. I mean, seriously, what could be more harmful to society than two men holding hands in public? Oh, the horror!
cartoon, satire about US politics, about Sarah...

How far can I go?

And then there’s that magical word: celibacy (or “chastity”, as is it is referred to in the Catechism §2359). Gays and lesbians “are called to chastity” says the Catechism. Called by whom? Has God decreed that all gays and lesbians have, by nature of their sexuality, a vocation to remain celibate? On what grounds? Where’s the free human agency in the calling? And then again, perhaps these experts in human sexuality can explain to us common mortals where we are to draw a line. Is romantic kissing OK for the Church? Or perhaps one would be going too far if holding hands and cuddling were to be included? Who knows, perhaps it amounts to a sexual act. Well, yes in fact it is a sexual act. But not a genital act. Oh, I see, so it’s all about genitals, isn’t it, and not about human beings in their entirety.
Admittedly I feel very strongly about this issue, whence my ranting here at QTC. Perhaps, it’s because I’m very comfortable expressing my feelings, and I’m not afraid of showing my affectionate side. More importantly, as a Catholic, I am heir to a long tradition of symbols and gestures by which we give expression to realities that are otherwise inexpressible. We are a sacramental church and it becomes second nature to sacramentalise everything. Hardly surprising therefore that sex and love have a sacramental side to them. To put it in other words, I will never put in the same basket the sex acted out in a porn movie (to give but one example), and the love-making between two persons in a committed relationship. The acts in the selves may be identical, but the context is totally different (as would be other behaviour related to the sexual acts). If Catholic morality cannot see this distinction, then such a morality is seriously flawed and must be questioned. And if this same flawed morality is what occasions the strong reactions even to such a simple gesture as holding hands, then it is clear that the root problem is homophobia. Let’s call a spade a spade, and cease to spiritualise the anti-gay rhetoric.

Love and holiness

Why am I making so much fuss about holding hands and the issue of celibacy/chastity? Well, they’re two facets of the same issue. As a Christian, love is the central dynamic of human existence and meaning. To grow and perfect ourself in love is a necessity if we are to come to the fullness of what it means to be human. Life’s all about relationships. – and love, which is not equal to romance, though it would include it. I’m talking of loving relationships, relationships that draw the best out of us as human beings, relationships that motivate us to move forward in holiness. If, as human beings, we are called to wholeness/holiness (see my last post Envisioning wholeness), then the demands made by some groups in society to LGBT folk – basically, to suppress all expression of love – surely runs counter to this. Holding hands and making love are points along a continuum. There is room for debate for what is acceptable in a public as opposed to a private setting, as long as it is applied equally to straight and gay persons. On the other, it is unacceptable in civilised society to threaten persons – whether physically or psychologically/spiritually – simply for the fact that they are gay. To stand up, and not to stand for homophobia in whichever form it comes, is as important a battle as that played out in the legislature and in courts.

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What Gay Catholics Have Done: Vito Russo

You may not be immediately familiar with his name, but if you've ever browsed the gay shelves of a decent bookshop, you've almost certainly seen it, and his title "The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies".  At The Cutting Edge,  Douglas Ireland has a tribute and review of a recent biography by Michael Schiavi," Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo".

I am not a particularly great enthusiast for classic movies, and have never been moved to buy the Russo's book, but I was interested in the account of how he emerged from a working class, Italian Catholic background to a life as a prominent gay activist.

The Genderqueer Trinity

A 2nd Century Hymn of Praise to the Trinity is so rich in genderqueer imagery, that it cries out for sharing again,  during Transgender Faith Action Week. When I first posted it in January last year, the whole concept was completely new to me. Since then, I have found some impressive modern, scholarly articles which confirm the fluidity of gender in conceptions of the Trinity. Today, I simply want to share once again these wonderful words - and come back to the scholarship another time.

The text is Ode 19,  of the  2nd century "Odes of Solomon":

A cup of milk was offered to me, and I drank it in the sweetness of the Lord's kindness. The Son is the cup, and the father is he who was milked; and the Holy Spirit is she who milked him; Because his breasts were full, and it was undesirable that his milk should be released without purpose.
The Holy Spirit opened her bosom, and mixed the milk of the two breasts of the Father, ......
The womb of the Virgin took [it], and she received conception and gave birth.
Read the full, text, and other Odes translated by James Chattlesworth, here.
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Envisioning wholeness

Gay/Lesbian Hate

Wounded listeners

It must have been pure coincidence that, over the past days, my attention was twice drawn to the effect our words  (as priests) have on those who hear them. The first of the two instances refers to the recent report by the Public Religion Research Institute on “Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues.” One of the most relevant results was, in my opinion, that regarding the influence of priests’ preaching on youth suicide. More precisely the report finds that:
Seven‐in‐ten (70%) Catholics say that messages from America’s places of worship contribute a lot (33%) or a little (37%) to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth. (page 12 of the report)
The second eye-opener came from a book I recently picked up to read, Donald Cozzens’ The Changing Face of the Priesthood. Cozzens speaks about the value of the ministry of the Word, but also highlights the responsibility that comes with this ministry. In particular he raises the issue of words that wound, and gives a number of very relevant examples:
It is the clerical word that enforces without listening carefully to parishioners’ circumstances. It is the word that puts the image and policies of the institutional Church ahead of the pastoral well-being of the people of God. Sometimes it is a true word, a gospel word, spoken too soon or at the wrong time, giving the listener reason to believe that the priest knows only how to name sin and disgrace without searching for the movement of grace that often stirs in the most deplorable of situations. Ecclesial words are at their worst when they become words of inquisition and accusation. The Inquisition, it can be argued, still exists though stripped of physical torture and the stake. It exists wherever an inquisitor takes the verbal formulations of the truths of our tradition and understands them as timeless absolutes whose meaning has once and for all been declared and confirmed. It exists whenever the essential truths of our faith are understood in such a manner that historical and contextual realities are dismissed out of hand. (page 93)

Truth, Freedom ... and Healing

Over the last years, I have been less and less exposed to other priests’ homilies (though I do get feedback from their listeners!) so, perhaps, I have been spared the worst. Being conscious (as a gay man) what it means to be stigmatised, I have tried to ensure that the general themes in my homilies match much of what I write  here in QTC.  To this end, I felt that it was important to write in previous posts about truth and freedom. And I thought that should have been enough. However, upon reflection, I realise that there is a third factor that needs to be mentioned to complete the story. And this third factor is – healing, or if you would like to look at it by the end result – wholeness (holiness). I don’t think I’m revealing anything by saying that wholeness and holiness really mean the same thing. What may not immediately register in the mind is the connection that there is between freedom, truth and wholeness/holiness. Healing makes the connection clearer. It’s not enough to talk about freedom, as if this is a hurdle that is overcome once and for all. We are free to the extent that we are whole. And conversely, to the extent that our brokenness continues to be part of our present, then we lack something of the total freedom that comes with being whole/holy.
The Lord tells Moses and the people of Israel:
I am the Lord, who makes you holy. (Exodus 31:13b)
And this vision of holiness runs through the length of scripture to the NT, with Jesus telling the man healed of leprosy:
“Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19 “whole” in the KJV/AV)
The writer of the book of Hebrews further states that:
By one sacrifice he [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (10:14)
Looking at it this way, holiness/wholeness becomes a vision, something to own as well as to aim for. And yes, as queers we are also called to wholeness.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, the process of coming out (even when factoring in possible setbacks) is an act of grace, a healing act as well as a freeing act. The truth of self-acceptance of one’s sexual identity and orientation unleashes a wave of change. As a gay man, I could witness to the strengthening of my identity in Christ through this act of coming out: it is Jesus himself who beckoned me to come out of the grave and into the light. What seemed less clear at that point, but subsequently became not only clearer but demanded my attention was the fact that coming out and breaking free was not the end of the journey towards wholeness/holiness. Quite the contrary was true. Now, the pursuit of wholeness became an imperative. What other options are there?  The easy way out would be to continue to nurse my wounds and go into victim mode, sliding into a state of helplessness. That just will not do.
Medieval book illustration of Christ Exorcisin...

The narrative of the Gerasene demoniac

I was particularly inspired – from the multitude of healing narratives in Scripture – by the story of the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20), especially after I read James Alison’s reading on this in his book Faith beyond resentment (in chapter 6).
When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. (verse 15)
The sight of a man who had formerly been labelled as possessed sitting beside Jesus, dressed and in his right mind must have been quite a shock. Hardly surprising therefore is the reaction of fear. And yet, we need to consider what this man’s previous condition had been. He was a person stripped of all human dignity, cast out of society because of his ‘demons’, and found shelter only among the dead (the gravestones). Such was the pain and suffering of this person (he would cry out) that he even acted out in a self-destructive manner (cutting himself with stones) – thereby further confirming that he was possessed by demons. Society couldn’t control him (they tried to chain his hands and feet), so they dispossessed themselves of him – he was simply known as the demoniac. Not one of them, he represented all that they felt they were not.
As gay persons we may have experienced this dehumanisation and demonisation in a myriad forms: the demon of homosexuality; reparative therapy; a pathology to be cured of; abnormal behaviour that is condemned by society; being cast out by family, friends and society; the homophobia both external and internalised; labels such as “intrinsic evil” and “objectively disordered” don’t leave much to the imagination, do they? In a large number of cases the resulting woundedness is so severe that there seems to be no end to the pain and suffering – self-destructive behaviour and death seem to be the only ways to end the pain. The gospel author reveals the man’s intense agony by exposing what happens when this destructive energy is transferred to the pigs; no sooner they were invaded by the demonising power the herd hurtled into the sea.
Jesus entered the scene to bring peace to the man, reinstating his humanity. The movement from woundedness to wholeness is completed by the final action of Jesus:
“Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (verse 19)
What could be more subversive than returning to the place of former rejection to witness God’s grace, love and healing. The man is given the role of an apostle. He does not need to play by the community’s rules any longer (us vs. the demoniac). At peace with himself (the action of sitting) and no longer tortured by the words and actions of the community that kept him in chains (he is now described as being in his right mind) he is restored in his dignity as a human being (dressed). Beside him stood Jesus, source and ultimate guarantor of the new place and status of this man.

Returning whole

As queer folk we are invited to let this vision of wholeness become ours too. Yes, there will probably be an outpouring of anger, and a painful giving up of the false sense of being that we had received by society and church in order to belong without belonging (conditional belonging). It may be hard at first to realise the freedom and healing that comes from not having to play by a set of rules aimed at confirming the ‘demon’ in us. There is healing in being able to go back to the community and society and demand equality of treatment. Wholeness is achieved when we are not condemned a priori for the love that we are capable of giving, but rather when we are allowed to explore ways in which we learn and grow by loving. And finally, wholeness is ours when we listen to Jesus choosing us to return to society and church to show the wonderful work that has been done in us. Possessed by God's Spirit allows us to repossess ourselves, owning our humanity to the full.
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Thursday, 14 April 2011

Presbyterian Inclusion: Ratification Now Imminent

Since I last updated the status of the Presbyterian process for ratification of last year's vote permitting the ordination of openly partnered and lesbian or gay clergy, prospects have brightened even more. There are now 16 regional presbyteries that have switched from No to Yes -  compared with just two that have switched the other way, from Yes to No. This makes a net gain of 14 - against only 9 which are needed. It is likely that there will be others too, making the switch in the weeks ahead. The number of Yes votes still required for approval (7) is down to single figures, and only one fifth of the 35 votes still to be held. The opposition, conversely, in order to prevent ratification would need to win 28 of those remaining votes, including switching at least five from Yes to No - an unlikely task, when so far they have achieved only 2 such switches, out of 153 votes held.

This process is clearly of fundamental importance to lesbigaytrans Presbyterians in the USA, but I believe it has far greater importance for the entire Christian church, worldwide: it is just one, local manifestation of a much bigger process. The ECLA took a similar decision in 2009, and recently 33 retired Methodist bishops called for that denomination to do the same. Three openly gay and partnered bishops have been ordained in the Episcopal and Swedish Lutheran churches, and the German Lutherans have no problem with pastors living with same sex partners. The process extends beyond the ordination of gay clergy. There is increasing willingness in many local churches and (some national denominations) to bless same sex partnerships or even celebrate gay weddings in Church. These are not, as the conservatives claim, simply opportunistic accomodation to secular trends in defiance of Scripture, but are prompted in large part precisely by careful attention to scholarly Biblical study, prayer and attentive listening process. Even Catholic professional theologians are now recognizing what lay Catholics already know - that homoerotic relationships in themselves are not immoral. What is presently unfolding in the PCUSA, why I find it so riveting, is nothing less than a wholesale transformation of Christian responses to homosexuality.



Sunday, 3 April 2011

Catholic Support for Queer Equality: No Surprise!

At Religion Dispatches, Paul Gorrell says nobody should be surprised that Catholics collectively favour LGBT equality. He writes about the recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), which shows that Catholics do so in greater numbers than the population at large, and are increasing that support, and observes that
..on every LGBT rights question, including DADT and job discrimination, a high percentage of the Catholic population supports the move toward full participation of LGBT individuals and the necessary legal protections to create the environment for that participation.
Perhaps most surprising, 70% of Catholics surveyed believe that the words of their priests in sermons can contribute to the suicides of LGBT teenagers. In other words, Catholics understand that orthodoxy from the pulpit has consequences and they’re concerned with both the means and the ends when it comes to LGBT rights.
The Catholic support for equality is more in keeping with Catholic tradition and orthodoxy than the prejudice that so scandalously contributes to youth suicides. Gorrell lists 5 reasons why this support should not come as a surprise:
  1. Catholics have an underlying commitment to social justice built upon a prominent liberal notion that we are meant to serve each other and pay attention to those who suffer most within our society.
  2. Catholics love ritual.
  3. Catholics believe in both individuality and community.
  4. Catholics are highly skeptical of the sexual teaching of their Church.
  5. The pedophilia crisis undermines any teaching which denies LGBT rights.
Read the full post at Religion Dispatches  
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Transgendered in Faith: A Review of Progress

I am astonished that much as the religious right waxes apoplectic at the idea of lesbian or gay inclusion in church, or secular equality in marriage, family or employment law, what really gets them going is the notion of the trans community being met with basic human dignity. Their pretence that this is based on "religious" principle is beyond my comprehension: from the story of Philip the Ethiopian eunuch in the Acts of the Apostles, the lesson is unambiguous and explicit: for the Christian, "All are welcome". 

My post last week on Genesis emphasised that a primary point of the Creation story is a celebration of diversity, which includes gender, sexual and orientation diversity. By grand serendipity (I didn't plan it that way), today marks the start of Transgendered in Faith Awareness Week. to mark this week, I will continue reflecting on the celebration of gender diversity, with reposts of some previously published material, and fresh thoughts, on some transsexual and transgender surprises in the animal kingdom, a look at some books, trans themes in Scripture, and some personal stories. 

To start the week, I simply draw your attention to a Guardian report by Becky Garrison which says that

Trans clergy are finally gaining greater acceptance

Friday, 1 April 2011

Presbyterian Minister Repents - of Preaching Against Homosexuality

Queer Christians are familiar with being told by religious leaders that they must repent. Recently though, I have been seeing a number of stories of a different kind of repentance: of pastors, theologians and Biblical scholars who are beginning to repent for the error and harm done in their previous preaching against homoerotic love. One British pastor has engaged on an extended walk of repentance. At Salon, Murray Richmond has written of his  experience as a US Presbyterian pastor who fuelled prejudice from the pulpit, and of his journey to current repentance.

Richmond 's story has particular interest, as this personal journey neatly illustrates the wider journey of the Presbyterian Church of the USA towards the acceptance of openly gay or lesbian candidates for ordination.  As  he notes, this is a topic that Presbyterians have been discussing, studying and praying over for years. As they do so, many more are concluding, as he has done, that past teaching and practice was wrong. (The current raw voting figures show that support for opening the doors to LGBT ordination is now 5% stronger than it was just a year ago). The PCUSA process in turn, is indicative of the much broader movement transforming Christian responses to homoerotic love across the entire gamut of Christian denominations. From a position of near universal rejection a few decades ago, some degree of acceptance of openly gay and lesbian candidates for ordination, and same sex couples for church blessing or full weddings, is rapidly becoming the mainstream position.