Monday 30 January 2012

Candace Chellew-Hodge, on a “Dangerous Vision of God”.

Growing up as the daughter of a Baptist minister, Candace Chellew-Hodge had a deep love of God and commitment to the Christian faith. She was also a lesbian, for which she encountered extensive bullying, as school - and in Church. Finding that her attraction to females meant that the God she loved did not, after all, love her, she tried to kill herself. Thankfully, she survived the attempt, and went on first, to found the online Christian magazine, "Whosoever", to study theology, and then to enter ministry. She has also written an LGBT Christian survival guide, "Bulletproof Faith".

At Religion Dispatches, she has a piece up ("God, Rid Me of God"), reflecting from her personal experience on the rash of teen suicides by American queer youth, and especially that of  19-year-old Eric James Borges. These are a result, she argues, of a "dangerous vision of God".

For Full Inclusion in Church, Be “Comfortable in Your Own Skin”

Whatever the election result, San Diego's next mayor is guaranteed to be gay-friendly: two of the four candidates are openly gay, the other two are known to be straight allies. (Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed one of the straight candidates over the gay man and the lesbian in the race). This is an interesting illustration of the political changes over the last four years. In 2008, when the current mayor Jerry Sanders came out in vocal support for marriage equality, and opposition to California's Proposition H8, he met with serious opposition from his Republican colleagues, and almost failed to get his party's endorsement for his re-election.

There is a lesson in here though, for queers in church, as well as in politics. I believe firmly that wherever possible, we should be aiming to participate and worship fully and openly in our local communities (in addition to specifically LGBT congregations). These words by the lesbian candidate, Bonnie Dumanis, could easily be read as applying to coming out in church:

In my view, if you feel comfortable in your skin then people will feel comfortable with you,” she said. “You don’t have to make a big deal out of it. You just do your thing and people respond to that. And as more people have been more comfortable being openly gay then more people see that there’s somebody in their life that … they now know is gay and it changes views.”


I once heard a wise priest say about the Soho Masses that "at it's best", the congregation enables people who have long been estranged from the church, to return, once again recognize the value of sacramental life of the church, and then to begin participation in their local parishes.

In other words, the Soho Masses, as well as Dignity, Quest, Integrity and the multitude of their counterparts in other denominations and countries, help us to become "comfortable in our own skins" - the essential precondition to accepting and creating full inclusion in church.

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Saturday 28 January 2012

“He Who Pays the Piper” Corollary: the Lesson From Maine

What happens when the piper disregards the adage, and ignores those who pay him?

Bart's post yesterday ("He who pays the piper") reminded me of Frances De Bernardo's report at Bondings 2.0, on how the diocese of Maine is a stark reminder of this. Back in 2oo9, the Bishop of Portland and his allies threw themselves into the battle to repeal the state's gay - marriage law (and no, it wasn't on the side of the traditional Catholic values justice and equality, or protecting all families).

Catholic Church Doesn’t Need to Take Another Battering’

The Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to marriage equality during Maine’s 2009 referendum has had a “devastating” effect on the church there.

That’s the opinion of a Maine parish administrator, and also of William H. Slavick, who penned an op-ed in the Portland Press Herald entitled, "The Maine Catholic Church doesn't need to take another battering."   Slavick, a veteran church reformer and peace activist who ran for U.S. Senate in 2006, points out that the hierarchy’s supposed “victory” has been a decisive defeat on the pastoral level, with financial consequences, too:

“Recently, a parish cluster administrator acknowledged that the referendum repeal campaign was, for the church in Maine, ‘devastating.’ No explanation was necessary. We know. The lack of charity occasioned wide discomfort. Some left, often among the better educated and more generous. More stopped attending Mass after weeks of campaign bullying. With $200,000 of diocesan referendum contributions unexplained, many refused to make contributions from which the bishop received a cut. That includes the Sunday offertory collection.”

Slavick’s concern is timely because  supporters of marriage equality have gathered enough signatures to stage another referendum on the issue in November, so a new struggle is very near.   Details about the referendum can be read in an article, “It’s on: Same-sex marriage supporters give it another try,” from Maine’s Sun Journal.

- Bondings 2.0.

What is especially shameful about Maine diocesan intervention in 2oo9, is that it was not even honest. As Frances De Bernardo outlined in a previous Bondings post, Marc Mutty, the Director of Public Affairs for the Diocese who had also been the Chair of "Yes on 1," and who led the fight against marriage equality in the referendum now regrets a lot of the anti-gay rhetoric that he promoted  - and even acknowledges that some of it was blatantly untrue.

According to a Portland Press Herald April 17, 2011, article, the documentary contains interviews of Mutty acknowledging that  his words were sometimes false:

"'We use a lot of hyperbole and I think that's always dangerous,' says Mutty during a Yes on 1 strategy session, at the time on leave from his job as public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine."

'You know, we say things like "Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!" ' he continues. 'Well, that's not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn't, you know?'"

There is a (small) silver lining here, and it is this: my reading of the situation now, for the 2012 campaign, is that the bishop has indeed learned that "He who pays the piper, calls the tune". He and Mutty have seen the wanton destruction their campaign wreaked on the diocese the last time around. They can read the newspapers, and will know that Catholic support for marriage equality is now even stronger than it was three years ago. They will continue to oppose marriage for all - but I will be very surprised if they throw themselves into this battle with anything like the reckless fervour that they displayed in 2oo9.

The Church is gearing up for another battle - but this time, reluctantly:

Maine's Catholic Church, which played a big role in the campaign to overturn the law three years ago is gearing up for another battle, albeit reluctantly.

"Quite frankly, we don't think we should have to go through this again,” said Church spokesperson Brian Souchet. “It's divisive and contentious lot of money spent on both sides."

Recognizing that it is so contentious, not least among Catholics, perhaps the diocese should simply stay on the sidelines, or at least display some of that "respect, compassion and sensitivity" demanded by the Catechism?

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Friday 27 January 2012

He Who Pays the Piper

… Calls the Tune

Perhaps it’s best to put up a GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING: “Too much speculation is bad for your spiritual health!” before going any further. Well, I’ve just done so. Let the speculation begin…

The suspicion is growing on me that the supposedly theological battle – loosely framed as conservative/traditional vs. liberal/modern – for the very heart and soul of the Church is just a red herring. In my view it’s something akin to a conjuring trick, where the conjuror gets you to look in one direction, diverting your attention away from the trick he intends to pull on you. The real issue, in my opinion, is a political one, and is largely determined by what’s happening behind the scenes. Who is taking hold of the reins of power within the Catholic Church? Who is calling the shots? Who is paying the piper, thus deciding the tune?
Illustration from The Pied Piper of Hamelin

There are those of you who are reading this and saying to themselves: Okay, here goes another fancy conspiracy theory. Well, not really. Instead, I would like to point to certain inconsistencies that are, at the very least, a bad PR exercise, but when put together undermine the Catholic Church’s authority and standing. Let’s have a look at the upcoming creation of 22 new cardinals, and the implications of this move. You may follow the link to the article in the Tablet for the statistics.

Monday 23 January 2012

“Disobedient priests plan global movement”: Austrian Independent Online News

A parish priest who encouraged clergymen to be "disobedient" towards the Vatican plans to go international.

Helmut Schüller of the Preachers’ Initiative said yesterday (Sun) that "2012 will be the year of internationalisation". Schüller – who previously headed Caritas Austria – said the Austrian Roman Catholic Church should "finally take members seriously".

Schüller criticised the Vatican due to its conservative approach towards key topics of the 21st century and said the institution resembled an "absolutist monarchy". The head of the parish of Probstdorf in the province of Lower Austria stressed that his initiative "receives a lot of approval from Catholic reform movements all over the world."

Schüller claimed some weeks ago that the Preachers’ Initiative currently consisted of 370 members. He said yesterday there were no plans for further talks with the highest representative of the Roman Catholic Church of Austria, Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn. The archbishop condemned the word disobedience as a "term of fight" last month. Schönborn said it was "burdened with a negative connotation".

Schönborn said it was not true that he opposed all kinds of reforms of the Church. He admitted that there was the need to rethink certain decisions and opinions but also made clear that he was against the crucial points of Schüller’s agenda.

The Preachers’ Initiative, which was established more than half a year ago, calls on the Vatican to allow priests to give Holy Communion to people who married a second time at registry offices after getting divorced following church weddings. The group also says women should be allowed to become Catholic priests.

I simply don't have time to write any detailed commentary on this, but after the German theologians' revolt last year, the association of rebel priests in Ireland, the priests' initiatives in Austria and Belgium, and coupled with the overwhelming evidence that the majority of Catholics just do not accept orthodox Church doctrine on human sexuality, or on the detailed concerns carried in the Austrian declaration, it is obvious that there is substantial potential for widespread support in the rest of Europe, and North America. Whether there will be support in Latin America, Africa or Asia, is another matter.

Follow the link for the full report, and consider the implications.

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Friday 20 January 2012

Gay Bishop Charles Otis, on Homosexuality and Faith

Bishop Gene Robinson is  the best known openly gay bishop, but there are many others. Bishop Otis Charles, who came out in 1993 after his retirement from full time ministry, is one of them.  He is also legally married: he and his husband held a ceremony in San Francisco in 1993, then wed legally in California in 2008.

While still serving as Bishop of Utah, he did not disclose in own sexuality, but did advocate openly for a relaxation of the barriers to ministry in the Episcopal Church. As a result, Utah came to be seen as a relatively liberal place of refuge for gay men and lesbians in the Episcopal Church.

[caption id="attachment_21515" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Otis Charles and Husband, 1993"][/caption]

This year's Sundance Film Festival, features a documentary film about that other, better known gay bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.  " Love Free or Die", which also includes reference to Bishop Charles, will  be screened on Monday January 23rd, and preceded by a worship service on Sunday 22nd.   QSalt Lake has a piece on Bishop Charles, illustrating the dramatic contrast between the conditions for gay clergy when he was first ordained in 1951, and those prevailing today:

After 60 years in the clergy, including 40 years as an Episcopalian bishop, Otis Charles, 85, was one of three openly gay bishops within the faith, he said. Although, when he first entered seminary in the 1950s homosexuality was not talked about, let alone embraced, by many in the church.

“I never would have imagined how far we’ve come – in the church and in general. It’s a different world. I never would have imagined, when I was first entering seminary, that I would be able to be married to my husband and enjoy all the benefits that come with that,” Charles said. “In my lifetime I’ve seen the onward movement from being outside of the movement into the ongoing life of the community in ways that I never would have imagined.”


We must remember though, that we have not arrived at this place of moderate tolerance without a great deal of preparatory work, by a great number of people. Bishop Charles was one of the pioneers:

The path to arrive as a happily married, accepted bishop was more than three decades in the making; the issue of openly gay clergy members was first raised in 1976 during a general assembly where Charles testified about the need to accept gay clergy members, although he was not open about his own sexuality. In 1979 he was a member of a coalition of leaders who signed a letter in opposition to the newly enacted policy prohibiting gays and lesbians from being ordained into the ministry.

Charles, along with eight members from the Utah delegation, opposed the church’s new position, which led to Utah having a liberal reputation.

“We were kind of a place of refuge for gay or lesbian individuals who wanted to be ordained and their home bishop wouldn’t accept them or recognize them,” Charles said. “The authorities in the diocese of Utah supported more than one such person. And so the dioceses in Utah have a spirit of openness for a long time.”


There also, quite obviously, many barriers to overcome, especially in the Catholic Church - but I will leave those out of this post. For now, let us simply celebrate Bishop Charles, Bishop Robinson, and the other pioneers on the road to LGBT inclusion in church. I look forward to this documentary film becoming more widely disseminated.

[caption id="attachment_21517" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Bishop Gene Robinson (right), Mark Andrew at their civil union, 2008"][/caption]


An earlier version of this post stated that the documentary film "Love Free or Die" is about Bishop Otis Charles, but in fact it is primarily about Bishop Gene Robinson].

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Wednesday 18 January 2012

How the Bishops Are Insulting (Opposite - Sex) Married Couples

 Isn't it quite insulting to heterosexual married couples to reduce their affirming commitment through marriage of their relationship to a simple biological act? If marriage is merely for reproductive purposes, why do they insist on trying to defend it as sacred? Is reproduction more sacred than love? Not in the New Testament it's not! Now I look at it like that, aren't they a load of silly billies?

-Jennifer Hynes, QTC comment thread.

One of the more offensive aspects of the Vatican teaching on homoerotic relationships is the way in which everything is reduced to "genital acts" (which are dismissed as mere gratuitous self-gratification). As anyone who has lived in a committed, long-term relationship can testify, it's about far more than mere sex. It's also about mutual caring and support, for each other and for family members, aging parents and growing children (even for animals).

It's shared pleasures, at the movies, in music or art, or dining with friends. It's about shared domestic duties, and joint participation in neighbourhood, community (and parish) concerns. Sex itself is far more than  mere genital acts: it's also about caresses, hugs, and kisses. Especially as we age, "genital acts" are of diminishing interest.

It hadn't occurred to me, but Jennifer is right. By focussing their opposition to marriage equality so obsessively on the capacity to create (not nurture) children, some Catholic bishops and organisations are similarly reducing heterosexual marriage to a series of mere genital acts. This is not only insulting to the LGBT community, it is also insulting to all loving couples.

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Tuesday 17 January 2012

Celebrate the Value of Gay Parents

I don't need formal research to tell me that gay men and lesbians make good parents: I know it on the grounds of my own success (affirmed by my daughters), and the public testimony of one of them:

Gay parents? I recommend them.

Even a pope, John Paul I, is believed to have supported adoption by gay parents, on the grounds that they would take in the children others might reject. (His view has been confirmed by the experience of adoption agencies and childcare professionals, who have frequently confirmed that without a pool of prospective gay parents, many kids would simply remain unplaced).

But for those who want solid research evidence on the suitability of gay/lesbian parents, there is a growing mountain of material out there. (Sadly, I am not aware of any research on trans parenting. Can any readers help?). Huffington Post summarizes some of it.

Gay Parents Better Than Straight Parents? What Research Says

Gay parents "tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents," said Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist at Clark University in Massachusetts who researches gay and lesbian parenting. Gays and lesbians rarely become parents by accident, compared with an almost 50 percent accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals, Goldberg said. "That translates to greater commitment on average and more involvement."

And while research indicates that kids of gay parents show few differences in achievement, mental health, social functioning and other measures, these kids may have the advantage of open-mindedness, tolerance and role models for equitable relationships, according to some research. Not only that, but gays and lesbians are likely to provide homes for difficult-to-place children in the foster system, studies show. (Of course, this isn't to say that heterosexual parents can't bring these same qualities to the parenting table.) [5 Myths About Gay People Debunked]

Adopting the neediest

Gay adoption recently caused controversy in Illinois, where Catholic Charities adoption services decided in November to cease offering services because the state refused funding unless the groups agreed not to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Rather than comply, Catholic Charities closed up shop.

Catholic opposition aside, research suggests that gay and lesbian parents are actually a powerful resource for kids in need of adoption. According to a 2007 report by the Williams Institute and the Urban Institute, 65,000 kids were living with adoptive gay parents between 2000 and 2002, with another 14,000 in foster homes headed by gays and lesbians. (There are currently more than 100,000 kids in foster care in the U.S.)

-read the full analysis at  Huffington Post.

The challenge that legal approval for gay adoption  presents to Catholic adoption agencies has been widely reported. But there is another, wider issue for the Church that has received much less attention. With some 80 000 children living with gay adoptive or foster parents, and many more living with a biological parent who has a same sex partner, that's an awful lot of kids being raised by gay parents - and a multiple of that number with friends and classmates who are being raised by gay parents.

That's an awful lot of young kids in school, and a fair proportion of them will be attending Catholic schools - we don't know for certain just how many, but it's likely to be many thousands. Against that number, it's worth noting that there have been just two reports of Catholic schools that have attempted to exclude a child with same sex parents (and one of those had the diocese step in to reverse the attempt).

These children are growing up with the evidence of their own experience (like my daughters) or that of their friends, that gay parents are no more likely to be the hedonistic reprobates of some Catholic assumptions, than any others.

That's a major cause for celebration.

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“Marriage and the Common Good”: Washington Bishops, Washington Catholics

As marriage equality enters the political arena in Washington state, the Catholic bishops have predictably begun rallying the opposition. What is particularly intriguing in this version of Catholic bishops opposing marriage, is that they explicitly recognize that the legal dispute is around civil marriage, and have presented their case in purely secular terms.

Note the opening sentence of their statement, "Marriage and the Common Good" (emphasis added):

Legislation has been introduced in Washington State to change the current law defining marriage. The present law states: “marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female…”

[gallery link="file" columns="4"]

Monday 16 January 2012

Dr Jeffrey John to sue the Church of England for discrimination?

Dr Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, has good reason to be unhappy with his treatment by the Church of England. Not once, but twice, he has been nominated as a bishop - and then passed over, in spite of widespread agreement that he is superbly well qualified, and the best man for the job. On both occasions, the sole reason was that he is gay, and partnered. On both occasions, the handling of the affair was grossly embarrassing and offensive.

Anglican rules on gay or lesbian clergy are a mess, confused and contradictory. Technically, all are welcome to the priesthood - but only if they are married, or celibate. The celibacy requirement though, is widely perceived to be a fig-leaf. Nobody believes it is widely observed for ordinary priests  - but is seen to be a major barrier to promotion. Adding to the complexity, two recent legal opinions have reached contradictory conclusions on the validity of the rules. Now, it seems that Dr John is about to test the rules, in court.

Gay priest 'considers suing Church of England for discrimination'

The Church of England's most senior openly gay cleric is understood to be considering suing his employers for discrimination unless he is made a bishop.

Dr Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, was forced to stand down by the archbishop of Canterbury after being appointed suffragan bishop of Reading in 2003 following objections from conservative evangelicals.

Two years ago, John – a celibate priest who is in a longstanding civil partnership with another cleric – was prevented from becoming the bishop of Southwark after the archbishops of Canterbury and York stepped in.

Reports on Sunday suggested John had become so exasperated at his treatment that he had hired Alison Downie, an employment and discrimination law specialist and partner at the law firm Goodman Derrick, to fight his case under equality law. Four years ago, Downie successfully represented a gay youth worker who was found to have been discriminated against by the bishop of Hereford because of his sexuality.

It is thought John's case could hinge on a damning memorandum written by a former dean of Southwark Cathedral, which lays bare the divisions over sexuality at the very top of the church.

In the leaked memo, the late Very Rev Colin Slee described how both the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the archbishop of York, John Sentamu "behaved very badly" at a meeting to choose the bishop of Southwark in 2010, and "were intent on wrecking both Jeffrey John and [another candidate] Nick Holtam equally".

via  The Guardian.

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Homosexuals and the Catechism

Many people believe that the Catechism teaching on homosexuality is well known: in effect, you can be gay, just don't do gay (which makes as much sense as saying you can be left-handed, just don't write left-handed - but I'm not getting into that, today).

 2357 Homosexuality ....... has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved

What those "many people" overlook, is another, equally important line in the Catechism, which has been far too frequently ignored by people who should know better, such as some of the  Catholic bishops and Vatican bureaucracy). That line demands that we must be accepted with "respect, compassion, and sensitivity".

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. ......

Lesbian and gay Catholics would do well to take careful note of this line, memorise it, and quote it every time they encounter hostile, orthotoxic Catholics quoting the previous line. There are good grounds for challenging the statements and conclusions in the hostile line (the claims about Scripture are disputed by many modern Bible scholars, the claim from "natural law" debatable), but no grounds that I am aware of for challenging the line on respect, compassion and sensitivity.

Even where lip-service is paid to this important Catholic teaching, the full implications are often ignored.  At America blog last week,  Fr James Martin SJ expanded on the significance of the line, and what it implies, in a lengthy and valuable post.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Catholic Bishops Divided on Civil Unions


This is getting really interesting. Last year, Archbishop Vincent Nichols raised a flurry of interest (in support and in outraged horror) when he suggested that there could be value in civil partnerships/unions.  The year before that, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna (and others) suggested that it was time for the Church to shift emphasis from "homosexual acts" to the quality of the relationships. Meanwhile, this year in Colorado, Catholic bishops are rallying against proposals for civil unions - as they have done elsewhere in the US, arguing that civil unions are a slippery slope to full marriage equality. In Italy, a new report from Commonweal tells us of an Italian bishop speaking up for civil unions. Largely ignored today, is the historic fact that when Portugal was considering  a law  to provide for full same -sex marriage, their bishops supported civil unions as an alternative, more acceptable to the Catholic Church.

I wonder - is this a sign of a wider, fundamental split between Catholic bishops - or a division between European and American bishops? Either way, I welcome this. Any public recognition of value in civil partnerships encourages discussion of the value of relationships, as something good in themselves, independently of the fuss over genital acts on the one hand, and the definition of marriage, on the other.

 Italian Bishop Advocates Civil Unions. reports that Paolo Urso, the bishop of Ragusa (in Sicily,) has called for civil recognition of same-sex couples. (The UPI report is here.)

He’s not calling for civil marriage for same-sex couples, but for civil unions, presumably for heterosexual couples as well as same-sex couples. money quote:

When two people, even if they’re the same sex, decide to live together, it’s important for the State to recognise this fact, But it must be called something different from marriage.

The US bishops, recall, view the civil recognition of same-sex relationships as

a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society, striking at the source from which society and culture come and which they are meant to serve. Such recognition affects all people, married and non-married…

To my knowledge, the USCCB has not spoken about civil unions for straight couples. (We’ve always just called it “civil marriage.”) So what we see here is two places to draw a line: Urso would have civil unions regarded as different from civil marriage, while the USCCB would draw the line between heterosexual and homosexual couples.

- dotCommonweal 

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Catholic Church, same sex marriage

Friday 13 January 2012

A Gay Priest’s Journey, From Exile to Reconciliation

Coming out is almost always a challenging experience, for priests (of any denomination) more than for the rest of us.  The Rev. Canon Albert Ogle of San Diego is not a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, but a priest all the same. He has written of his personal difficulties and journey in a book due for publication  . Some of the story is told in a post at San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.

Starting out in the Church of Ireland at a time when homosexuality was still a criminal offence, he soon found himself fired by his church, without even time for a proper farewell to his congregation, and with no transition plan.

From exile to reconciliation: The remarkable journey of a gay clergyman 


In 1980, I was fired for being a gay priest. It was a long time ago but it was very difficult, and an example the results of a "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy practiced by both church and state.

In the early 1980s it was still illegal to be gay in Ireland; and there was a stigma which the Church strongly endorsed through its interpretation of Scripture. My partner Frank and I were young and naive, and we didn’t really know what we were dealing with in terms of the culture of the Church of Ireland, which was still very homophobic.

At St. Bartholomew’s Church in Dublin, my rector, John Neill, when he discovered I was gay and in a relationship, suspended me from all duties and even from saying goodbye to parishioners. This hurt me personally, but it also profoundly hurt the congregation. Even worse was the impact this decision had on the whole Church of Ireland. The story of what happened circulated for many years after my departure and was cited as an example of the church’s poor handling of gay and lesbian clergy.

via San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.

Denied any prospect of ministering in Ireland, he and his partner moved across the Irish Sea, to start again in London, where he found work in community services - but once bitten, was careful to remain deeply closeted. Later, he cross the sea again - the Atlantic, to the USA and California. Along the way, the trauma had devastating impact  on his relationship, culminating in the loss of his partner.

In the light of some recent posts and comments here about the value or harm of Gay Pride Parades, I was interested to note the circumstances around the start of his rehabilitation in the Church - at his first gay pride parade (on vacation in LA), where he met the president of Integrity, who was actively looking for an openly gay priest:

I had heard about how progressive the American Episcopal Church was becoming, and on a vacation in Los Angeles in 1982, I met Marsha Langford at my first Gay Pride parade. As president of Integrity, the Episcopal Church’s LGBT advocacy organisation, she was looking for an openly gay priest to begin a ministry with the hundreds of runaway gay youth that flocked to Los Angeles every year, as refugees from homophobic Middle America. I moved to L.A. later that year and began the ministry at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

He tells much more of his own journey, which you can read in full at SDGLN, but I want to focus here on a key lesson that he points to, himself.

While he has been through what he calls a "profoundly healing experience", and while things are undoubtedly much easier in some denominations at least than they were twenty or thirty years ago, there are still profound difficulties remaining. One strategy of resistance that he recommends is one that I have been promoting since I began this site, three years ago: we must tell our stories.

It is my belief that the authentic spiritual journey begins in exile (the Garden of Eden story affirms it) and being fully healed as an LGBT person, we are gently encouraged to return to the place of the wound. The sacrifice that is being made by LGBT people on a global scale, on altars of certainty and righteousness is a daily occurrence. “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” takes on a new meaning when one’s own spiritual journey follows a pattern of crucifixion, death and resurrection.

Canon Malcolm Boyd, one of the great openly gay mentors for the church who I came to love and respect in Los Angeles, once told me “Albert, for every one of us who have survived, 10 have not.” I think of the many gay and closeted clergy I know from the Church of Ireland who either committed suicide, drank themselves to death in a bid to numb their alienation, or were shipped off to London as I was. The toll is devastating and the waste of God-given gifts is a great blight on the church’s stewardship of creation in all its diversity.

What thousands of blessings have been withheld from the church as a result of the rejection faced by clergy like me? Yet many lives, mine among them, have experienced healing and reconciling love thanks to dioceses, parishes and nonprofit organizations conscious of the needs of LGBT people.

We now have the opportunity to tell our stories, and there are thousands more to tell. Integrity and the Diocese of Los Angeles welcomed me and took me in, broken and afraid and humiliated, and surrounded me with the friends of God. They believed in me when I could not believe in myself. As I come up to my 35th year of ministry, I realize that my move to the United States allowed me opportunities that most gay clergy are not given.

For anybody who has a story to tell, as clergy or laity, gay, lesbian, trans or other, but does not know where or how to tell it - this site will always provide a space to speak. Write to me at

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Wednesday 11 January 2012

Gay Marriage: What Pope Benedict did NOT Say

A number of news reports this week have stated that Pope Benedict has described gay marriage as a threat to humanity:

Gay marriage a threat to humanity's future — Pope

GMA News - ‎19 hours ago‎
VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict said on Monday that gay marriage was one of several threats to the traditional family that undermined "the future of humanity itself." The Pope made some of his strongest comments against gay marriage in a New Year address ...

Gay marriage is a threat to humanity, claims Pope

Daily Mail - ‎Jan 10, 2012‎
By Graham Smith Gay marriage is one of several threats to the traditional family unit that undermines 'the future of humanity itself', Pope Benedict XVI warned yesterday. The pontiff told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that the education of proper ...

Liberal family values, same-sex marriage a threat to the future of humanity: Pope

National Post (blog) - ‎Jan 9, 2012‎
Pope Benedict XVI attends his annual meeting with Holy See Diplomats at the Hall of the Throne on January 9, 2012 in Vatican City, Vatican. During his speech the Pope pleaded for religious tolerance and an end to discrimination against Christians ...
And plenty more of like ilk. If such a patently and obviously false and malicious statement is really what he said, then the LGBT community, and queer Catholis in particular, would be justified in painting him as public enemy number one.

So - did he say it?

Andrew Brown at the Guardian denies this, and I agree with him.

Saturday 7 January 2012

Catholic Teaching on Same – Sex Relationships: An “Ongoing Discussion”?

Cardinal Francis George has apologized for his comparison of the KKK and "some gay activists".



Statement from Francis Cardinal George, OMI
Archbishop of Chicago
January 6, 2012

During a recent TV interview, speaking about this year's Gay Pride Parade, I used an analogy that is inflammatory.

I am personally distressed that what I said has been taken to mean that I believe all gays and lesbians are like members of the Klan. I do not believe that; it is obviously not true. Many people have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian, as have I. We love them; they are part of our lives, part of who we are. I am deeply sorry for the hurt that my remarks have brought to the hearts of gays and lesbians and their families.

I can only say that my remarks were motivated by fear for the Church's liberty. This is a larger topic that cannot be explored in this expression of personal sorrow and sympathy for those who were wounded by what I said.

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

The apology is clear, straightforward, and unreserved. It should be welcomed, and accepted similarly without reservation. As noted by Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, this is huge.