Wednesday 31 August 2011

Those who deny Christian charity to gay minister need a reality check - Herald Scotland | Comment | Herald Letters

 "THE report by Geraldine McKelvie on the division between leading members of Newburgh Parish Church regarding their gay minister’s proposal to enter into a civil partnership makes sad reading (“Fresh Kirk row on same-sex unions”, The Herald, August 29.

From all accounts, the Rev Lynn Brady seems to be an asset to her community and a committed Christian who has worked extremely hard to help others. How many of us can say the same?

In the light of the Church of Scotland’s dwindling membership one wonders if those who now deny the hand of friendship and Christian charity to her are in need of an urgent reality check."

-Read the full commentary at - Herald Scotland , Letters:

Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry Have Hijacked Christianity - Jay Bakker

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"Jay Bakker, son of televangelists Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, says GOP presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have hijacked Christianity.
Bakker, who heads the gay-inclusive Revolution Church, told CNN anchor Don Lemon, who was hosting HLN's chat show the Joy Behar Show, that his church does not believe being gay is a sin.
Lemon, who came out gay in his 2011 memoir Transparent, asked Bakker his thoughts on Minnesota Rep. Bachmann and Texas Governor Perry, both of whom oppose gay rights.
“They're fighting for the Christian vote here,” Lemon said. “What do you make of that?”
“Oh to me it's irrelevant. I mean it's not – they're playing to a group of people who deal a lot with fear and using fear to control folks. To me I'm a person of faith and they don't seem to be pulling me in at all."

-full report at  On Top Magazine 

Austrian Catholics Support Priests' Rebellion

A drive for reform by Austrian priests, urging the ordination of women and an end to celibacy, is meeting with widespread support, according to a new survey published Monday.
A total 71.7 percent of Austrians found the initiative "fair and adequate," with 64.7 percent saying they would even sign a "call for insurbodination" launched in June, according to the Oekonsult polling institute.
The so-called "Priests' Initiative," signed by at least 200 clergymen, wants women and married individuals to be allowed to be ordained as priests, an end to the celibacy rule and the right for laymen to preach.
Members of other Christian faiths and anyone who has divorced and remarried should also have the right to communion, it says.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Telling Our Stories: ‘I Am Just a Christian Who Happens To Be Gay’

"The winter of 2004, I was sitting somewhere in the vast Pennsylvania wilderness for my school’s annual “snow camp”—a week where several fundamentalist Baptist schools came together to bring spiritual revival into the lives of their students. This was done by making the teenagers in their charge feel a transitory emotional response to their messages of guilt and fear.

The particular session which I found myself in was led by a very passionate preacher who was trying to explain how one becomes a “real” man to his awkward, gangly audience of teenage boys. As he whipped his audience into a frenzy of righteous zeal by decrying worldly influences such as cologne and hair products, he came to the climax of his message.

“You know what the greatest danger to masculinity is in America today? Those homosexuals. Unless we get some real men to rise up and take our country back, those prancing fairies are going to flood our streets with their per­versions.”"

Gay Malaysian plans wedding feast despite government criticism - The Washington Post

"A gay Malaysian pastor who plans to marry his American partner in New York pledged Tuesday to throw a wedding banquet in his Muslim-majority home country despite criticism by government politicians.

The Rev. Ouyang Wen Feng, an ordained minister who has mainly lived in the United States since 1998, told The Associated Press that he wants more Malaysians to speak up for gay people after the country’s Islamic affairs minister recently described same-sex unions as a form of “extremism.”"

James Martin, SJ, on the Future Church

To kick off my proposed series of discussions of the Patheos collection on the future of the Catholic Church, I begin with the vision of James Martin, SJ.

Martin begins with a discussion of the problem of disagreement and dissent within the Church, whereby almost any suggestion of disagreement with any church leader is seen as dissent. This knee-jerk response provokes a fear of coming under attack, and so we too easily find it easier to just hold our tongues, and avoid saying anything out of line. Fear, however, has no place in the Christian faith. Scripture, he reminds us, says to us in different variations of wording “Be not afraid”.

And so the headline for his piece is   “Casting Out Fear: Imagining a Sympathetic Church”, which sounds warm, fuzzy and uncontroversial. I was initially disappointed that his argument does not go far enough, but on rereading, I recognised  how  for truly subversive it is. For he is not saying simply we need a church free of fear in general, but specifically, a church free of fear of criticism for disagreement.

The problem with fear engendered by attacks on any disagreement, is that first, it stifles all discussion. Where there is never any debate or open exchange of views, mistaken ideas become entrenched, and appropriate responses to changing circumstances become impossible. Fossilization occurs. Secondly, emotions become involved, of which fear is only one. Anger and grievance are others – on both sides of the exchange. Where particular people find that they are constantly on the receiving end of these attacks, they will often find themselves growing weary of the constant, fear of honest speech, the anger and the hurt that ensue – and simply leave.  The Church becomes diminished.

The tragedy is that there should be no grounds for this fear.  It is an established part of Catholic theology that we have not only a right, but an obligation, to follow (informed) conscience, even where it contradicts papal authority. (Pope Benedict in earlier times said so himself). Church history is littered with instances of people who were once damned for “dissent”, but later honoured. Heresy, it is said, is sometimes only a matter of timing. There are strong grounds for arguing that there is a moral obligation to dissent.

It is obvious that sadly, we do not have such a climate in the church today. Academic theologians who stray from the approved line live in fear for their careers, under the ever watchful eye of the CDF, the modern incarnation of the Inquisition, while those who write the wrong thing in internet comment threads may find themselves under heavy personal attack.  (Please note that here, I want to be entirely non-partisan: comments from the “progressive” wing can sometimes be as hurtful as those from conservatives. We all need to be more respectful of those who disagree with us.)

There is one aspect of the subject that Martin does not go into, in which I have been increasingly interested.  His entire approach is based on the need to create an atmosphere free of fear, by concentrating on the listeners, urging that they become more tolerant and open-minded.   There is another tack that can also be helpful, and that requires a change of mindset on the other side, by those who currently find that they are the ones in “dissent”. That is, quite literally, to take seriously the words of Scripture and to “Be not afraid” – even if there is not (yet) the prospect of a sympathetic response. We must continue to speak up (as many have been doing already), refuse to be cowed into silence (as some sadly, have been)  - but accept the inevitable recriminations calmly, without reacting in the same intolerant tone ourselves.

This is  indeed a vision of Church that I can subscribe to – and perhaps it is indeed attainable.

Here is Martin’s opening:
We live in a church where almost any disagreement to almost any degree with almost any church leader on almost any topic is seen as dissent. And I'm not speaking about the essentials of the faith -- those elements contained in the Creed -- but about less essential topics. Even on those topics -- say, the proper way to deal with politicians at odds with church teaching, new translations of the Mass, the best way for bishops to deal with complicated pastoral issues, and so on -- the slightest whiff of disagreement is confused with disloyalty.
What does this engender? It engenders a fear-based church. It creates clergy and religious frightened of speaking out, terrified of reflecting on complicated questions, and nervous about proposing creative solutions to new problems. It leads to the laity giving up. It causes the diminution of a thoughtful theological community. It muzzles what should be a vibrant, flourishing, provocative, innovative, challenging Catholic press. It empowers minuscule cadres of self-appointed watchdogs whose malign voices are magnified by the blogosphere, and who, with little to no theological background, freely declare any sort of disagreement as tantamount to schism -- and are listened to by those in authority. It creates fear.
Now, does this seem like what Jesus wanted to establish on earth? It doesn't to me. I thought he said, "Fear not!" And I thought St. John said, "There is no fear in love." And "Perfect love casts out fear." But perfect fear casts out love, too.
Bishop Kevin Dowling has said there is a "pressure to conform" and he is correct; it is intense, particularly in official church circles. As we face the effects of the clerical sex-abuse scandals, what we need is not a fear-bred silence, but a hope-filled willingness to listen to all voices, because the Holy Spirit works through all of us.
-(For the full, thoughtful piece, go to Casting Out Fear: Imagining a Sympathetic Church at Patheos)

Sunday 28 August 2011

Mexican Presbyterian church severs ties with US Presbyterians over gay clergy - The Washington Post

 " Presbyterians in Mexico are breaking ties with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) because of differences over homosexuality.

The theologically conservative National Presbyterian Church of Mexico voted to stop working with the U.S. denomination. U.S. Presbyterians voted last May to remove barriers for ordaining people in same-sex relationships. The churches share a 139-year history and a network of social service ministries that spans the Mexican-U.S. border."

Monday 15 August 2011

Australian clergy speak up for marriage equality

"A group of prominent Australian Christian clergy have put their support for same-sex marriage on the record a day before Christian opponents of marriage equality stage a rally in the Great Hall of Parliament in Canberra.
The Uniting Church, Baptist and Anglican clergy made their statements following the launch of a new Christian campaign for marriage equality, Christians For Gay Marriage, on Friday through which 9,400 Australian Christians have already sent letters to their MPs since its website ( was launched."

Sunday 14 August 2011

Being A Gay Christian Is No Oxymoron, Says Pastor Katrina Foster - Amagansett, NY -

Katrina Foster, a pastor from Fordham Evangelical Lutheran Church, had relocated to the East End after over 15 years of service in the South Bronx. Pastor Foster is gay, and was one of the first handful of Lutheran clergy members to not only live openly as a lesbian, but to marry a woman and start a family, despite strictures set forth by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). She is one of a small demographic of Lutherans that have been striving for equality for sexual minority people within the denomination since the early 1990s, nearly losing her collar and congregation along the way. With the ink still wet on New York State's passage of Marriage Equality for same-sex couples, President Obama's claim that his views on gay marriage are 'evolving,' and protest emerging from various religious institutions regarding the sacramental implications of the term 'marriage,' I sought Pastor Foster to discuss her perspective on these issues. Also, I was curious to meet a gay Christian – an anomaly I had heard existed, but had never encountered firsthand.
Read the full analysis at

Thursday 4 August 2011

Joseph Ward III: Gays Are Christians, Too

Two of the identities I hold dear to my heart are my faith and my orientation. As a child, I wondered if I could lead a 'normal' life as a gay Christian. My family and I attended a Baptist church in eastern New Mexico, and I had numerous experiences within the church that shaped my core values: love for family and neighbors, a yearning for strong community, and a calling to pursue justice and equity. These values have helped me troubleshoot the most difficult times in my life and have helped foster my sense of purpose. They are the same values that give me strength to understand I will never need to choose between my faith and orientation, even though there are some who think I should.

I recently came across a story of a young Zimbabwean named Carlos Mpofu. Like myself, he is a gay Christian; he comes from a middle-class family, where he is the middle child of three; and, in his community, he also found a sense of purpose through faith."
Read Joseph Ward III's full article at Huffington Post

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Singer Embraces Sexual Orientation and Christian Faith |

"One of the biggest struggles many gays, lesbians and bisexuals face is the reconciliation of their sexuality with their Christian faith. Can someone be gay and a Christian? Can a Christian be gay? Depending on who you ask, and what translation of the Bible you read, you might get a wide variety of answers.

No one knows the answer better than Shawn Thomas, a Boynton Beach gay man who grew up the son of a minister in conservative Indiana. Thomas wrestled with these questions and has turned to contemporary Christian music to share the message of love and inclusion that can be found in the church."