Saturday 24 December 2011

Irish Broadcaster Leaves Church Over Its Refusal to Ordain Women

Broadcaster Olivia O'Leary has, very publicly, left the Catholic Church.
The Carlow-born journalist renounced Catholicism because of the church's refusal to ordain women, though the institutional cover-up of clerical child sex abuse was a "proximate factor".
This Christmas, Ms O'Leary, who was educated by Convent of Mercy nuns, will celebrate Christmas with carols and lessons at the Church of Ireland St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
The former Today Tonight anchor used her regular and popular essay on RTE radio's Drivetime programme to explain why she left the church some two years ago.
The central reason was the continued refusal of the church to accept the equality of women, "in other words, to ordain us".

Weary O'Leary leaves church over its refusal to ordain women 

"No longer at my age can I accept a subordinate role; not for myself, not for my daughter, not for my sisters, my nieces or friends," the 61-year-old current affairs presenter declared.
She added that other women had walked out of the church a long time ago.
"Maybe I just kept hoping," she added.
"At this stage I don't feel rage so much as weariness -- that 'difference' is still latched onto as a reason to discriminate; weariness and, for me, relief, that it's all over now. I've moved on out."
She said it had taken her so long to leave because she knew, perhaps, how much she would miss the church, especially the Liturgy, which she described as "one of the the world's great art forms and "such a comfort at times of loss and pain".
And she was also mindful of what she called the "family connections" -- "beloved aunts who are nuns, beloved uncles who are priests and good kind friends who are nuns and priests".
"But it is their humanity that distinguishes them, not their role in an institution. And it is our humanity which distinguishes us, not the fact that we are women.
"So a church that does not recognise that. . . is in an ethical desert, like white-only churches in the American south or in apartheid South Africa."
She said that among the reasons she would celebrate Christmas in St Patrick's Cathedral was that she could stand tall there.
"I can stand tall because the Church of Ireland, whether I join it or not, accepts my full humanity. It ordains women.
"Otherwise I'll celebrate by simply being outside in the wind and the rain, outside in the sunshine walking the world that the creator made for us all equally.
"Not because we are male or female but because we are human," she concluded.
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Monday 19 December 2011

"All we want for Christmas.....": Filipino Message to the Bishops.

In terms of sheer numbers, the Philippines is a major Catholic country one that doesn't often make the headlines in the Catholic press elsewhere, except at Easter (when many Catholics re-enact the Passion by volunteering to be crucified themselves).
Perhaps progressive Catholics should pay more attention. Filipinos have demonstrated remarkable imagination in finding ways t0 protest the actions of their politically powerful, conservative bishops. A few years ago, a group of women protested the bishops' active campaign against the government's proposed reproductive rights bill, by delivering to the bishops' conference, colourful baskets of blown up condoms. (My favourite placard carried the message "Bless our reproductive rights").
Now, in this advent season, a group of LGBT Catholics went carolling for the bishops - with significantly altered words.

LGBTs go caroling at CBCP to protest 'discrimination' 

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community on Thursday went caroling in front of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) headquarters in Manila to press for their rights against discrimination.
The protesters, led by political organization “Ang Ladlad,” trooped in front of the CBCP office in Intramuros clad in red and green, with some even wearing Santa hats, and carrying a banner which says “All We Want For Christmas is our Human Rights.”
LGBT members also sang Christmas carols such as “Pasko Na Naman” and “Jingle Bells” with edited lyrics to focus on human rights.
The protesters, for example, sang “All We Want for Christmas is our Human Rights” instead of the usual “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,” an original composition by Don Gardner.

More information comes from the Philippine LGBT Hate Crimes Watch:

"We sing our carols not only for bishops and senators, but also we want the Filipino people to fill our socks and our hearts with blessings of equality by approving the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity, or SOGI, in the Senate Bill (SB) 2814 or the Anti-Ethnic, Racial or Religious Discrimination and Profiling Act of 2011," Bemz Benedito, Ladlad chairwoman, told the press.
The CBCP came out recently against the bill claiming that SOGI is a personal choice of LGBTs and do not need legal safeguards. The bishops have also traditionally maintained in the nine years that pro-gay bills have tried to pass in Congress that equality bills will lead to same-sex marriage.

LGBT groups however countered that SOGI is a deeply ingrained attribute and that many homosexuals and transgenders suffer lifelong violations of human rights from a bigoted majority, prompting them to campaign for legislative action.

The activists took turns singing medleys of traditional Filipino and English tunes rewritten with witty lyrics that sounded out their demands. Jingle Bells was rewritten this way:
We want you to know, that lesbians and gays
Transgenders and bi's, have equal human rights
Don't discriminate, we need more love, not hate
All we want for Christmas is our equal human rights!
Human rights, human rights, we want human rights!
Lesbian, gay, transgender, bi have equal human rights!

Comment at New Ways Ministry Bondings, where I first came across this story, notes:
Anger over the bishops’ conference position was inflamed when it was reported that a lawyer for the conference, Jo Imbong,  said that LGBT people  “should not be protected from discrimination”  because they had the power to choose their sexual orientation.
It sounds like the Filipino bishops are having the same problem that the U.S. bishops had recently when their adviser on marriage issues, Daniel Avila, suggested in a column in a Catholic newspaper that homosexuality was caused by the devil.  Under pressure, Mr. Avila resigned.
Let’s hope and pray that Jo Imbong either resigns or is dismissed.
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“O Come, ALL Ye Faithful”: Church of the Assumption and Saint Gregory. | Queering the Church

"Last Saturday evening, I joined with others from London’s Soho Masses for a Christmas Carol Service at the Church of the Assumption and Saint Gregory, Warwick Street, followed by a great Christmas Party. The closing hymn, the always popular “Adeste Fideles” (which we sang, to my disappointment, in English) was particularly suitable for the occasion.  It was written by John Wade, a choirmaster at that very church, where it was also first performed. As we sang, I began to reflect on just how appropriate it is that the regular Soho Masses for London’s LGBT Catholics take place in this particular church.

The history of the parish goes back to 1724, a time when Roman Catholics were unable to worship openly in England, but as a chapel of the Portuguese Embassy (and later the Bavarian Embassy), the church had diplomatic privilege, and offered a place of refuge from persecution for London’s Catholics. Later, the building was attacked and damaged in the anti-Catholic Gordon riots, but survived and was duly restored.

For LGBT London Catholics of today who feel, rightly or wrongly, that they are prevented by their sexuality or gender identity from worshipping openly in other Catholic parishes, this church once again is a place of refuge. However, we continue to suffer “attack”, in the form of prayers levelled against us from across the street, by people opposed to our worship. Like the building itself, we will survive these attacks, and come through in the end, revitalized.

The name is also significant, combining two superficially unrelated patrons, both redolent of promise for those persecuted by the Church. “Saint Gregory” is the great papal reformer. As such, his name on the church where we meet may be taken as a symbol of the hope for reform of Catholic teaching on sexual ethics and pastoral approaches to sexual minorites which must surely come, and of which glimpses have been seen in recent years – not least, right here in the diocese of Westminster. Then there’s Our Lady of the Assumption, a particularly powerful symbol for me, as a South African.

Read more, at "Queering the Church"

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Christian Support For LGBT Equality – From Africa.

There was a time when opponents of LGBT equality or inclusion could claim, without contradiction, that these were "obviously" and necessarily contrary to scripture. No more. Bible scholars, theologians, pastors and other people of faith, from all denominations, are increasingly visible with the counterpart arguments that Biblical values, and those of other faiths, are based primarily on love.
The arguments in favour of acceptance and inclusion have become familiar. What makes this voice fresh and new, is that it comes from Africa - specifically from Malawi.

Why the Church must embrace gays.

IT’s ironic that churches in Malawi are leading the charge against gays contrary to the fundamental basis of Christianity teaching which is love for all of God’s children.  Christianity was built on the premise of unconditional love; as such, a church should be a place where everyone can go for comfort and solace.  A place of refuge where everybody should feel accepted and loved.  Therein lays the tragedy when Malawian churches are at the forefront of the anti-gay movement.
Christians of every persuasion need to understand that the Bible isn’t anti-gay; particularly because of its ability to shape the hearts of people when legislation and social activism fail to do so.  There is no book, chapter or verse in the Bible that teaches Christians to hate anyone. In South Africa, Christians supported apartheid.  Eventually they withdrew their support for apartheid as they came to recognize that apartheid was a system fueled by the hatred of blacks and therefore contrary to Jesus’ teachings.
-Read the full article at Maravi Post
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Edit Post ‹ Queering the Church — WordPress

In an unseemly echo of last year's story from Boulder, Colorado, where a Catholic school refused to educate the children of two lesbian mothers, a school in Broken Hill, Australia, likewise attempted to refuse admission to the kindergarten class to a child with two moms. The local bishop intervened, instructing the school to reverse its decision - but too late. The damage has been done, and the parents have now refused to enrol the child at a school wish demonstrated homophobia in the first place.

This is how the saga began:
The girl's parents, one of whom was reportedly baptised Catholic, enrolled her into kindergarten at Sacred Heart Primary School in Broken Hill for next year, but their application was rejected.
One of the mothers told the ABC the principal had phoned her and said the women's relationship and living situation was the reason the application had been turned down.
Trevor Rynne, principal of the Sacred Heart school, yesterday confirmed the girl had been rejected because of her parents' relationship but declined to comment further.

Mr Rynne no doubt believed, in common with so many others who use their Catholic or other Christian allegiance as a cloak for their prejudice, that he was protecting the Catholic faith, but Bishop Kevin Manning put him smartly in his place, pointing out that he was misunderstanding the Catholic position.
Bishop Emertitus of Parramatta, Kevin Manning, who has responsibility for the Wilcannia-Forbes district covering Broken Hill, told The Australian this morning there was "no way in the world that we can persecute a child because of what their parents did".
"I've instructed (the school) to offer her the position," Bishop Manning said.
Bishop Manning said he was "absolutely appalled" by the girl's case, and that he had not been aware of it before it was reported in the media yesterday.
He said blaming a child for her parents' "sins" was not the attitude of the Catholic Church.
He described the girl's case as "most unusual" and said he would be raising the matter within the Catholic hierarchy.
"I will be taking this to the Australian bishops and asking them to make some pretty clear statements," he said.
He said the move by the school was out of step with Catholic teaching, and that something between the school's principal and priest must have got "twisted up or misinterpreted" for them to reach such a decision.

However, the latest reports are that the parents have turned down the offer of enrolment:
A SAME-SEX couple whose daughter was refused a place at a Catholic school because of their sexuality has turned down a subsequent offer of enrolment after a senior bishop intervened on their behalf.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Trouble in Adelaide over Anglican gay clergy.

For months, there have been simmering tensions in Adelaide's Anglican Church community over the unresolved matter of gay and lesbian clergy. A newly appointed bishop says that he has no problem with homosexual priests - as long as they don't engage in homosexual activity.

This is the formally proclaimed policy of his church, but it is untenable - it makes no more sense than to say "It's all right to be left-handed, just don't write left-handed". (Left-handedness is in fact a good analogy to homosexual orientation. Both are entirely natural, regularly occurring, non-pathological conditions affecting a small but significant minority of people).

ADELAIDE'S new Anglican Bishop supports homosexual clergy as long as they follow church guidelines that forbid gay sex.

The Venerable Dr Tim Harris will be ordained tomorrow as Bishop for Mission and Evangelism at St Peter's Cathedral.

His newly created role is essentially to help recruit and retain worshippers and establish new parishes in the Diocese of Adelaide.

The appointment comes in a period of unrest for the church. Reverend Ali Wurm, an openly gay priest from St Bede's parish at Semaphore, quit her post in June after ongoing "persecution" from within the church about her sexuality. Days earlier the first female Dean of Adelaide, Sarah Macneil, resigned less than two years after taking up the post.

The resignations came amid tensions in the diocese on how to respond to a global moratorium imposed by the church on same-sex unions and the ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships."

Earlier, two priests had resigned, with claims of harassment on the grounds of orientation.

The resignation of Semaphore's St Bede's Reverend Ali Wurm comes as the Dean of Adelaide, Sarah Macneil, also announced she would step down.

Tensions within the Diocese of Adelaide about how to respond to a global moratorium imposed by the church on same-sex unions and the ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships - as well as the handling of the turmoil by Archbishop Jeffrey Driver - are believed to be factors in the women's departures.

All Souls of St Peters' Reverend Andy Wurm, Ms Wurm's brother, confirmed pressure over many years about her former same-sex relationship was a key factor.

"A major reason for her resignation was the persecution she felt as a result of her living arrangements and sexual orientation," Rev Wurm said.

Related articles
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Friday 18 November 2011

Gay Marriage: At London "Catholic Voices" Discussion, Gay Catholics NOT Welcome.

At a Catholic event in London next week,  specifically about Catholics and gay marriage, the people most directly affected - gay Catholics themselves- have been excluded.

In London next week,  "Catholic Voices" is hosting an event to discuss the public communication of the Catholic Church's stance on gay marriage. The advance material for this event made it clear that for security reasons , those wishing to attend needed to RSVP ahead of time, or they would be turned away.

Please note that, due to security policies at Notre Dame, nobody will be admitted who has not RSVP’d to the above email address by the date specified. If you are bringing a guest, you must give us their name and email by then.
-Catholic Voices mailer
However, when I tried to RSVP as instructed, I received a prompt response from the organizer, Austen Ivereigh, stating in effect that I was not welcome. Excluded (and not for security reasons). I have never met Mr Ivereigh, who was presumably responding simply to my name. I soon discovered that two other gay Catholics hoping to attend, had been similarly excluded.
Catholic Voices states that they "began with a single aim: to ensure that Catholics and the Church were well represented in the media when Pope Benedict came to the UK in September 2010". It is clear from this little kerfuffle that it is emphatically not all Catholics and the Church as a whole that they are aiming to represent, but purely and simply the bishops: not "Catholic" Voice, but "His Master's Voice".
And so, we have the curious position that, at a Catholic event specifically about Catholics and gay marriage, the people most directly affected - gay Catholics themselves- are excluded.
This morning, the Guardian has taken up the story:

New York’s gay Irish keep mass attendance alive | Irish News | IrishCentral

"The legalization of gay marriage in New York last June reignited the age-old struggle between faith and sexuality in the Catholic community. While figureheads such as Archbishop Timothy Dolan promote an increasingly conservative outlook on homosexuality in Catholicism, a small group of mostly Irish-American Catholics continues to provide a weekly place of worship for all, regardless of sexual orientation. 

“We are Catholics in exile,“ joked Brendan Fay, 50, an active member of the organization Dignity, a Catholic non-profit organization for homosexual and trans-gender persons."
“Most people are surprised that LGBT people care about being Catholic at all,” said Fay, “probably because Irish-American Catholics often get stereotyped as conservative.”

Each Sunday evening, roughly 100 Dignity members transform the Episcopal Church St John in Greenwich Village into an unusual Catholic sanctuary.

Eight openly gay priests volunteer to rotate through Dignity’s weekly mass, and once every month or so, a female pastor delivers the sermon. Last Sunday, a congregation of 60 joined the Rev. Jim Morris, an Irish-American priest, in singing the inaugural hymn “Halleluja”.

From: IrishCentral 

'via Blog this'

Saturday 12 November 2011

Catholic Bishops, Gay Marriage: "the Outer Fringes of Crazy Town"

Catholic mothers, like all others, delight in their offsprings' weddings - and those of other family members. They are not alone. Weddings are the occasions of major family gatherings, where we gather to celebrate with them, cement the family bonds and interrelationships that have been set up by earlier weddings when we catch up with news from those members we only see at weddings and funerals, and lubricate the family bonding with suitable refreshments, music and dance.

Such celebrations apply to all couples, opposite-sex or same-sex. A few months ago, a colleague told me that his son was preparing for a civil partnership with his then boyfriend - and my friend gave me a regular running commentary of the hoops his wife and son were making him jump through in the wedding preparations, from early visits to (gay) wedding shows and expos, to choosing the outfits, to planning the "wedding" reception. When my niece married her wife on a Cape Town beach a few years ago, my staunchly Catholic mother and the rest of the family gathered from across the country to celebrate with her, just as they regularly do for all family weddings.

All this is to do far, far more than simply "congratulate" the new spouses. Yet in New York, a report at Unicorn Booty claims that Archbishop Timothy Dolan has "forbidden" Catholics from even congratulating gay or lesbian newly-weds:

But then the decree takes a sharp right turn and steers right off a cliff into Even Crazier Town, the affluent suburb to the north of Crazy Town proper’s city limits.

Dolan, on behalf of the Catholic Church, forbids Catholics from even being happy for their newly married gay friends or offering congratulations. Failure to comply with this perversion of law from their all-knowing, all-loving god that hates some of the things he lovingly created in his own image will result in canonical sanctions – a fancy way of saying priest court.

Oh, and stay the F away from Catholic churches, homos.

- Unicorn Booty

Now, the writer of this has himself veered off into Crazy Town - there is not a word in the decree to prevent Catholics from congratulating or celebrating with lesbian or gay newly weds, just a ban on doing it on Church property, or by Church personnel. One of the tragic features of (some) bishops' crazed, irrational overreaction to gay marriage, has been the crazed, irrational overreaction to the Catholic Church from (some) secular gay activists.

There is, however, good reason nevertheless to conclude that Catholic bishops' reactions to gay marriage, in the US and in Scotland, have taken them to the outer fringes of crazy town - but not for the reasons  given by Kevin Farrell at Unicorn Booty.

Friday 11 November 2011

Anthony Alfano: Openly gay student president at Catholic university

Here's a refreshing sign of the times: De Paul university is the USA's largest Catholic university - and has a student president who is openly gay.

Anthony Alfano's story is instructive for all those who still see a contradiction or tension between their innate sexual orientation and their Catholic faith. In a report carried by the Windy City Times, he describes and contrasts his experience of living in the closet, and that of living openly and honestly as a gay man.  At Catholic High School, he simply accepted the Church teaching that homosexuality was immoral, and from that assumed that there was something wrong with himself. Raised in a very Catholic family, homosexuality was never a point of discussion. He remained strictly closeted, and even dated girls as a cover. There was a price - he was emotionally a wreck and suicidal: three times he attempted to suffocate himself.

By the end of his senior year, he was still very unsure where he was headed, but had finally come out to himself -and to nobody else. That came later, after starting at De Paul. Significantly, the breakthrough event was on a retreat with other first-year students.  It was then, he says, that he truly understood the importance of coming out. 

Wednesday 9 November 2011

"Why good Catholics are challenging church line on homosexuality" – Patrick Hornbeck on "Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church"

Official Catholic teachings describe gay or lesbian orientation as “an objective disorder” and tell those who love their same-sex partners that they possess a “tendency… toward an intrinsic moral evil.”
Catholic bishops have been public advocates for laws banning same-sex marriage, and some have sought to prevent LGBT Catholics and their allies from fully participating in the Church’s rituals and activities
But neither formal teachings nor bishops’ statements tell the whole story.
A series of recent conferences at American colleges reveals the breadth of Catholic approaches to issues of sexual diversity.
The conferences, part of an effort called More than a Monologue, have happened at two Catholic universities and two non-denominational divinity schools
The events conclusively show that American Catholics are hardly of one mind, nor in lockstep with their bishops, when it comes to same-sex marriage; to rights for LGBT people at home, at work, and in church; or to the ongoing campaign against anti-gay bullying in schools."

full reflection at: CNN Belief Blog
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Saturday 5 November 2011

A Silver Lining to Avila’s Nonsense on “Satanic” Origins of Same-sex Orientation.

The extraordinary fiasco over comments by an advisor to the US bishops' anti-gay-marriage initiative would be the stuff of high comedy, if it were not so tragic. (Indeed, much of the commentary from the secular LGBT blogosphere has been hilarity at the nonsensical nature of his claim that homosexual orientation has a Satanic origin).

Max Zachs: Britain's first transgender rabbi?

A peace worker who wants to become Britain's first transgender rabbi is to feature in a new prime-time documentary.
Maxwell Zachs, who did not want to give his birth name, was born female but began the physical transition to become a man in 2009.
The 25-year-old features in Channel 4's My Transsexual Summer, a four-part series following seven transgender men and women who share a house as they experience the highs and lows of changing gender."

("My Transsexual Summer" begins on Channel 4 on Tuesday, November 8).
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Friday 4 November 2011

Episcopal Church in Minn. passes resolution opposing marriage amendment

In marked contrast to the Catholic bishops, who have thrown unprecedented resources into supporting a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, the Episcopal church in the state is opposed to the amendment.  Episcopal Bishop Brian N. Prior says this decision is grounded in the firm principle that the Church has always stood with the marginalized.

In theory, the Catholic Church shares this firm Biblical principle, and indeed the majority of Catholics agree with the Episcopal church in extending it also to the LGBT community. The exception,  in the case of homoerotic relationships, is Catholic bishops who are prepared to sacrifice authentic Catholic values and Catholic families, where they are in conflict with Vatican ideology.

Members of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, which held its annual convention over the weekend in Minneapolis, passed a resolution opposing the marriage amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.

 Episcopal Church in Minn. passes resolution opposing marriage amendment 

The church is joining other denominations and non-profit organizations in signing the “Resolution against the Constitutional Amendment to Ban Marriage for Same-Sex Couples” as prepared and presented by Minnesotans United for All Families.

That group is trying to defeat the amendment set for a vote on the November 2012 ballot, which would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

 “The Episcopal Church in Minnesota has always stood with the marginalized,” said Bishop Brian N. Prior, IX Bishop of Minnesota, said in a released statement. “Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender orientation or immigrant status, Episcopalians in Minnesota have always embraced both the Gospel mandate of love of neighbor and the Baptismal Covenant imperative to respect the dignity of every human being.”

 Episcopalians (which number about 22,000 members in Minnesota) join other faith-based groups already gearing up for the heated political battle ahead this year.

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Saturday 29 October 2011

Huffpost's "15 Inspiring LGBT Religious Leaders". Who's Not on the List?

Huffington Post recently published a slide show of 15 "inspiring LGBT religious leaders". They are :

  • Irshad Manji, Muslim and founder and director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University's School of Public Service.
  • Bishop Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire.
  • Rev. Ouyang Wen Feng, who founded a gay-friendly church outside Kuala Lumpur and is thought to be Malaysia's only openly gay pastor.
  • Imam Daayiee Abdullah, the imam and religious director of Masjid An-Nur Al-Isslaah, and the co-director of Muslims for Progressive Values
  • Bishop Mary Douglas Glasspool serves as the Assistant Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
  • Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Beit Simshat Torah, the largest LGBT synagogue in the world.
  • Rev. Troy Perry founded the LGBT denomination of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) in 1968.
  • Larry Yang is on the Spirit Rock Teachers' Council and a core teacher at the new East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, Calif.
  • Pastor Manny Santiago is the pastor of University Baptist Church in Seattle, Wa.
  • Rev. Scott Anderson is the first openly gay PCUSA minister ordained after the church voted to allow individual presbyteries to set their own ordination guidelines around sexual orientation.
  • The Rev. Pat Bumgardner is currently the Senior Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of New York.
  • Rabbi Steven Greenberg, the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi, is Director of Orthodox Programs for Nehirim, the organization for GLBT Jewish culture and spirituality.
  • Bishop Yvette Flunder, founder of the United Church of Christ Church, City of Refuge and presiding Bishop of The Fellowship.
  • Archbishop Carl Bean founded the Unity Fellowship Church Movement, a primarily African American and LGBT denomination.
  • Rev. Malcolm Boyd is an Episcopalian Priest and author of "Are You Running With Me Jesus?"
They also ask their readers, "Who is not on the list?". Perhaps in response to this, number 16 has been added:

  • Justin Lee is the founder and Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network.
So, who else is missing?  I find the selection somewhat idiosyncratic. Some (Gene Robinson, Troy Perry) are household names to LGBT Christians, and I approve the inclusion of people from other (non-Christian) faiths, but others  I have never heard of, and this is a topic I investigate constantly. Is this a reflection on my particular biases?  More troubling to me than these unexpected inclusions, are the omissions. There is not a single Catholic on the list, so I would like to propose some of my own.  Off the top of my head, I suggest the following (more could easily follow):

Fr John McNeill, theologian, therapist and priest, who was forced to leave the Jesuit order to continue writing the truth about sexuality and theology.  His pioneering books, and subsequent work as a therapist, have been an inspiration (and literal lifesaver) to countless gay and lesbian Catholics over nearly four decades.

Fr James Alison, openly gay priest and theologian, who writes not gay theology but theology from a gay perspective, is influencing not only gay Catholics, but also the wider Christian community - including such notable theologians as Archbishop Rowan Williams , primate of the Anglican Church.

Sr Jeanine Grammick, c0- founder of New Ways Ministry, who responded to the simple question "What is the Church doing for my gay brothers and sisters?" with the recognition that what "the church"  was failing to provide, she would attempt to do directly.  This she has continued to do, also over nearly four decades, in spite of direct opposition and hostility from the powerful elites in Rome.

Fr Bernard Lynch, now a London - based priest who was one of the first priests to respond with compassion and dedication to the plight of gay men in New York in the early days of the AIDS crisis, and found from the institutional church not support, but direct hostility and outright persecution. Since then, he has become not simply a gay priest, but one who openly acknowledges his marriage to husband Billy - and an inspiration to London gay Catholics for the wisdom he shares, in talks and in spiritual direction.

Mark D. Jordan, scholar and writer, whose books illuminate so much of the hypocrisy and paradoxes in the institutional Catholic Church, and its response to homoerotic relationships.
Arthur Sullivan, journalist and political conservative, whose fierce advocacy for gay marriage from a conservative perspective have done so much to win over to the cause of LGBT equality, people whose conservative values would not be seen as natural straight allies.

Those are my initial suggestions. Any more? ( I would particularly welcome nominations of more women. ).
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Friday 28 October 2011

Fairfield has Conference on Sexual Diversity - Hartford Courant

Three down, one to go - in the series of conferences on sexual diversity and the Catholic Church. The last of the series is due to take place tomorrow, at Fairfield University. This report from the Hartford Courant focusses on the "concerns" expressed by some Catholics to the bishops that the series is even taking place, concerns that the bishops shared with the organisers.  I (and many others) are far more concerned that the important issues being raised at these conferences are simply being ignored by the bishops. If they refuse to tackle the serious inadequacy of pastoral care for people with real lives to deal with, who will?

As the organisers have made abundantly clear in their advance publicity and commentary, the purpose of the conference series is not to promote dissent from teaching, but to consider the reality of Catholic lives, and the many areas which current teaching and pastoral practice simply does not address.
"When a Catholic university decides to sponsor a conference on sexual diversity, it's a ubject worthy of a bishop's attention.
Fairfield and Fordham universities, both run by Jesuits, an order known not to shrink from thorny issues, have joined with Yale Divinity School and Union Theological Seminary, to host a series of four conferences titled "More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church."The last of the four conferences, one at each school, is Saturday at Fairfield and focuses on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender priests, nuns or others involved in the Catholic ministry. 
With sessions entitled "Lesbian Nuns: A Gift to the Church" and "Gay Ministry at the Crossroads: The Plight of Gay Clergy in the Catholic Church," some Catholic observers who didn't want to give their names said they half-expected the programs to be shut down on the Catholic campuses.
That hasn't happened, but Bishop William E. Lori in Bridgeport and New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan did weigh in.
About a week after the first conference, held at Fordham University in New York on Sept. 16, Lori and Dolan issued a joint statement saying that they had received "thoughtful expressions of concern from many of the faithful regarding" the four conferences. They said they had shared their concerns with the presidents of Fordham and Fairfield universities.
"Advertisements and commentary in advance of these conferences seemed to imply that they might encourage dissent from the Church's teaching and from her teaching authority," the statement said, "while advocating for erroneous opinions about sexuality dominant in our culture."
The archbishop and bishop went on to say they had been assured by both presidents that the conferences, "while sensitive to the experience of the participants, will not be a vehicle for dissent."Paul Lakeland, a professor of religious studies at Fairfield, said that when he helped plan the series, he knew it could provoke "a certain amount of adverse publicity" and the possibility of having "alumni huff and puff … It's the price you pay for tackling the issues."
Lakeland said he had received some e-mails critical of the conferences."It's important for Catholic universities to address issues of concern in the church," Lakeland said. "That's what we do, and this is one of those issues of concern… The role of the university is to be in a place where the church does its thinking."Christine Firer Hinze, a professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University, said, "We aren't doing this in spite of the fact that we are Catholic; we are doing this because we are a Catholic university."The Rev. James Martin, who is culture editor for America Magazine, a national Catholic publication, said it's "highly unusual" for two Catholic universities to be "providing a forum to talk about a very controversial topic in the church… I would say it was a significant initiative on the part of the organizers."For the Catholic campuses to hold the forums, "I'd say in the present climate it's somewhat daring," said Andrew H. Walsh, associate director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College. "But this is not a topic that can be completely suppressed. There is going to be discussion about it."
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Wednesday 26 October 2011

Catholics react to Archdiocese push for constitutional same-sex marriage ban

Catholics from both sides of the issue are weighing in on the plan by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to create ad hoc committees in every Catholic church in Minnesota to push the state’s constitutional same-sex marriage ban.

One lay Catholic who works for a church-affiliated organization, who asked not to be identified for fear of losing their job, told the Minnesota Independent that the organized campaign in support of the marriage amendment was “offensive, divisive and against the image of Christ we see in the Gospels.”

“But honestly after the sex abuse scandal and the cover-ups made by the hierarchy, nothing they do shocks me anymore,” the source said. ”After watching the Catholic Church use funds to pay for their lawyers, pay off victims and now shove through this amendment, I’ve decided to withhold my tithe from the church. I do not want to provide them more money to defend themselves or lobby against me and those I love. Instead, I will give that money directly to services in Minnesota that provide food and housing for the poorest among us."

Minnesota Independent:
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Monday 24 October 2011

Gay / Lesbian Church Weddings for Denmark, 2012.

Denmark was the first country in the world to provide near-marriage for same-sex couples, in a system of registered partnerships that were widely described as "gay marriage". The only surprise in the announcement that like their Scandinavian neighbours Sweden Norway and Iceland they are to extend this to full marriage is that it has taken them so long. (Finland also has plans for full marriage equality).

The real interest here, is that this legislation explicitly includes gay church weddings, as there are already in Sweden and Iceland, with the approval of the dominant Lutheran Church in those countries.
Denmark is the latest European nation to announce plans to introduce gay marriage, with same-sex couples to be allowed to marry on Church of Denmark premises.
The Danish coalition Government’s church minister, Manu Sareen, told local newspaper Jyllands-Posten that gay men and women will soon be able to marry when legislation is introduced early next year.
“I look forward to the moment the first homosexual couple steps out of the church. I’ll be standing out there throwing rice,” he said.
“I have many friends who are homosexuals and can’t get married. They love their partners the same way heterosexuals do, but they don’t have the right to live it out in the same way. That’s really problematic.”
Denmark was the first country in the world to allow gay civil partnerships with legislation in 1989. Public polls suggest around 69-percent of the population supports same-sex marriage according, The Copenhagen Post reports.
The first same-sex weddings could take place as early as March, 2012 after the legislation is passed.
One of the people who participated in Denmark's first near-marriage ceremonies was a minister of religion. For the most part, European Lutherans do not have a problem with partnered gay or lesbian clergy, and most Danes will take this in their stride. Still, there will be some opposition.
....marriage equality in Denmark isn’t welcome by all with some religious leaders opposing the plans fearing it will cause a spilt in the Church of Denmark. Henrik Hojlund, of the Evangelical Lutheran Network, said gay marriage would be “fatal” for the Church and told the same newspaper “The Church of Denmark is being secularised right up to the alter in a desperate and mistaken attempt to meet modern people halfway.”
ATV Today

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Wednesday 19 October 2011

At this Nashville church, once-shunned gays fuel growth

It’s standing room only at Holy Trinity Community Church as the Rev. Cynthia Andrews-Looper wraps up her sermon for the 10:15 a.m. service, one of three she’ll do this morning.

She strays from the pulpit, pacing in front of an architectural rendering of a planned multimillion-dollar expansion to the church.

“Let’s make God-sized goals,” says Andrews-Looper, a former standup comedian.

Like many of her parishioners, Andrews-Looper grew up in an evangelical church — in her case, Independent Fundamental Baptist — and found she was no longer welcome when she revealed she was a lesbian. She started a Bible study with a handful of other gay Christians in July 1996, which eventually led to starting Holy Trinity, affiliated with the United Church of Christ denomination"

Author sheds light on what life is like as openly gay Christian

In his book "Sunday Morning: A Testimony of Life"  Richard Brown shares his personal testimony on life as a gay African-American Christian. Brown hopes to shed light on the world of gay Christians and the struggles they face from the organizations and churches that have challenged the idea of who is worthy to serve the Lord. "Sunday Morning" attempts to stand as a contrast to the developed practices of today's churches and asks for a change to solidarity at all costs.
Through personal experiences and scriptures, the author seeks to show the reader that God loves all people, including homosexuals. He expresses that the growing interest and coverage of same-sex marriage has allowed Christian organizations and churches to express their disdain on the topic of homosexuality."

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Church of England women bishop plan passes key threshold

The proposal to approve women bishops for the Church of England has just passed a key threshold: of the 44 diocesan synods, 28 have already approved the proposal - comfortably more than the half of the total (i.e. 22) that were required, with 14 votes still to come.

While approval at this stage may well have been expected, there are two features that particularly interest me. One is the sheer scale of support, and the other the very clear rejection of a compromise motion, to assuage the male hardliners who simply cannot countenance serving under a woman.

The sheer scale of the support thus far is impressive: 28 synods have voted in favour, and just 2 against. In most of these, support has come from all three houses of bishops, clergy and laity, and frequently by huge margins. The dire warnings of a seriously divided church, and the probability of a serious schism, are unfounded. The dissenting voices are few. When they see the scale of their defeat, most will learn to adapt. Some no doubt will choose to leave, or seek allegiance to an alternative hierarchical  structure - but they will be few.

The compromise motion, recognizing the inevitable victory for the proposal, aimed to sugar the pill for conservative male clergy by providing for alternative structures whereby dissenting male clergy could avoid reporting to female bishops, by working instead with a parallel structure consisting exclusively of men. This is obviously insulting to women, and has been roundly rejected. Just 6 of the 30 votes so far have supported the compromise. That is, 24 have rejected it - already more than half. The compromise cannot reach the minimum of 22 required.

Although it is clearly supported by a majority of the dioceses, this was just one (important) landmark along the way. The proposal still has some way to go. Next, it will have to be approved by the full national synod, with parallel votes in favour required from each of the three houses - of bishops, clergy and laity. The scale of support at diocesan level, coming generally from all three houses, should make passage at this next level pretty  much a formality. Thereafter, it will have to go before the British parliament.
Legislation to introduce women bishops into the Church of England has moved a step closer, according to supporters.
So far 28 out of 30 of the Church's regional councils, the diocesan synods, have voted to endorse the legislation.
Having been backed by most of the 44 diocesan synods, the measure will return to the General Synod next year.
A further motion with extra concessions for Anglicans who cannot accept women bishops has been supported by just six diocesan synods.
The Church's national assembly, the General Synod, may vote finally on the legislation next July.

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Thursday 13 October 2011

"Love in Action": Ex-ex-gay John Smid's Journey of Grace.

This past Tuesday, was "Coming Out Day". One notable example of someone who came out publicly was John Smid, the former director of the ex-gay program "Love in Action". Writing at the website for his new ministry, Grace Rivers, he publicly declared that he is gay, and that in effect, there are no genuine "ex-gays" - only gay people who have learnt to live a life in contradiction with their innate orientation.

A number of LGBT websites and blogs this week are reporting this news. For example, this is from one of the early reports, at LGBTQ Nation:

John Smid, the former Executive Director of Exodus International’s oldest ministry “Love in Action,” has publicly admitted that he is gay, and now says that being LGBTQ is an intrinsic part of a person’s being, not a “behavior” that one can repent from.
Writing on the website of his new ministry, Grace Rivers, Smid said, “One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable.
Smid, who resigned as Executive Director of Love in Action in 2008 — an ex-gay Christian ministry that purports to “restore those trapped” in homosexuality — is now disavowing the message he preached for years that promised gays they could change.

Those are the simple facts. (Wayne Besen has excellent commentary at Falls Church News). What interests me, from the perspective of queer faith, is the story behind the story - what was the journey that led him from director of a major ex-gay program, to coming out himself, and proclaiming publicly the dishonesty that underpins the movement. To learn more, I began to explore his website, Grace Rivers.

Smid summarized part of his spiritual journey in a post for June16 this year, just before the premier of Morgan Fox's documentary film, "This is what Love in Action Looks Like". He has filed the post in the category "A Journey of Grace", and that is precisely what it is.

Back in 2005, when first approached about the planned documentary on the protests outside Love in Action premises,  Smid and his colleagues wanted no part of it.
I had no intention of being any part of this documentary. The Love In Action staff discussed Morgan’s proposal and decided it would be best to remain silent and allow it to be what it would be without any words from me. I was frustrated about the fact that there was a protest and even more that it was being chronicled by someone I believed to be a fringe film artist in the gay community. I wanted no part of any of it.
However, he did agree to an initial meeting with Fox over coffee, and began to modify his views. Instead of seeing Fox as a "fringe film artist", he began to see him as a person of integrity and talent - and began to recognize things about himself, which had been suppressed.

Some years later, after he had left his post at Love in Action, Smid began to further "process the effects of the protests".  In particular, he began to see the negative effects on young people of forcing them into a program against their will, if it was the wish of their parents - on the basis that parents knew best. That led him to arrange further meetings with Morgan Fox, to talk over the protests - and to put these reflections onto additional film.
So, we began to schedule the interviews. I spent many hours with Morgan in front of a camera sharing my life story, answering questions about my 22 year work with Love In Action. We also drove around town to different spots for “B” roll footage for the documentary.

As the film was worked into a DVD, Morgan and I talked a lot about it. We discussed the different directions it could take. I shared my thoughts, Morgan shared his, and it became a kind of project that we both flushed out together
The next phase of the journey came after the filming was complete, and Smid got to see a DVD of the final product - which he disliked. He was uncomfortable and embarrassed to be such a central part of the film - but when he examined his feelings more closely, he found that it was not because of the content of the film, but on the grounds of his part in the Love in Action program itself.

Morgan and I got together and I began to share honestly the things that I had written down that were challenging me about the film. I started with, “Morgan, I feel embarrassed about being seen in the film.

“His face dropped into disappointment. He said, “I’m sorry, John. I didn’t mean……” I said, “No, Morgan, this is about me and my reaction. It isn’t about you or what you produced. His honest response to my comment allowed a very vulnerable conversation to come out. He was humble and yet honest himself. I went on to explain more of my agreement that I had been wrong and that we had done some things that needed correction.

And so it was that from initially being opposed to having any part in the filming, John Smid moved to a point where he wanted to participate in the premier, and has likewise moved from running a program to "convert" gay men into ex-gays, he has now come out publicly as gay himself, and declared that indeed there are no ex-gays.

As a Christian, Smid agrees that gay men may encounter the transforming power of Christ in their lives  - but this transformation does not lead to a change in orientation. For some, it may lead to marriage (to a woman) and children in spite of their orientation, or it may lead to a life of voluntary celibacy - or it may lead to a life in loving partnership with another man.
Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual. I have met some women who claim that is the case but then again, male sexuality and female sexuality are vastly biologically different so this would not be a fair comparison.
I have met men who find their transformation to include marriage to a woman and having a family and it is something for them that is a wonderful life experience. I’ve met some who find their transformation to include satisfaction in living a single life in Christ and His calling. But, I’ve also met some who experience transformation from sexual promiscuity to a faithful gay relationship that is truly, in their experience, a great blessing to their relationship with Christ.
John Smid's story can hardly be described as "Damascene" - it was not sudden, but took place over a number of years. What is important in it, was the effect of honest and open sharing with another, and honest self-reflection, followed by the courage to admit to the mistakes he had been making in the past, about himself, and about the changes he had been urging on others.

Even the CDF, in their otherwise hostile Pastoral Letter on homosexuality, concludes by reminding us of two key texts in scripture, "Speak the truth in love", and "The truth will set you free".  By beginning to speak the truth with Morgan Fox back in 2005, John Smid allowed the Holy Spirit to do her work, leading him on a notable journey of grace of coming out. That journey began in discomfort and embarrassment, as in coming out to himself showed him the errors of his previous position. It will have continued (probably) in coming out to friends and associates -such as Morgan Fox, whom he now acknowledges as a friend. It reached its culmination this week, in declaring himself in a public blog post. In doing so, I am certain that he will have found confirmation, as countless others have done on coming out, that "The truth will set you free."

John Smid has a new ministry, Grace Rivers, which works for the transforming power of Christ in our lives. As he has now proclaimed forcefully, that transformation should not be seen by the queer community as threatening, but liberating. 
It is our greatest desire to see Christ transform His people. We hope that He may use Grace Rivers as one instrument to do this. We have learned that honesty and authenticity are the vehicles to see the fruit of the Spirit flourish in our lives. We invite you to look through the pages of the Grace Rivers website to see events, articles and tools to reflect our desire. It is our hope you will see Jesus reflected in the truths set forth here.