Archive for Gay

I’ll let it speak for itself

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Life of gay people in the church

Richard Kirker. Image from www.lgcm.org.uk

Richard Kirker has, for the last 30 years, been among the leadership of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in the Church of England. He’s stepping down soon. New Statesman, profiles the Rev. Richard Kirker and provides some insights into his work at the helm of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

For the first half of that time, he fought a lonely battle to get church leaders to discuss sexuality. Now it’s hard to get them to talk about anything else, but not in the way he had in mind. Homosexuality is at the centre of a global struggle for the soul of the Anglican Communion, and as gay people are accused of bestiality and demonic possession, the Church seems to have become a repository for the homophobia unacceptable in the rest of society.
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If Rowan Williams has issued any rebuke, it has been barely audible until recently. Gay-friendly before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, he now reserves his chief condemnation for the North American Episcopalians who have elected an openly gay bishop. Many of the archbishop’s former close gay friends have been left reeling by what they call his betrayal.
“The situation is appalling. Life for gay priests is immeasurably worse than when I started doing this job, because of the obsessive scrutiny of those who hate us,” says Kirker, a battle-scarred 56-year-old whose shoestring organisation still numbers no more than 2,000 members. “Many people have given up the fight and left the priesthood. Others do not join it because it’s not worth putting themselves through the indignity of interviews that intrude into personal morality in a way that was once never considered desirable or necessary. It is now official policy to ensure that gay people who don’t give a commitment to celibacy are not selected for ordination.”

Read it here. It isn’t just ordination, either. I’m aware of gay people being refused licences to perform non-stipendiary lay ministry in my diocese because of their ‘lifestyle’.

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Homophobia is a sin whose end-time is now

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The Reverend Canon Marilyn McCord Adams is Regius Professor of Divinity, Christ Church, Oxford. She recently presented an interesting and challenging paper to the Chicago Consultation.

The Church is a school for Kingdom-heralds. The Church is charged with responsibility for Christian education that grows us up in the knowledge and love of God and sends us out for word-and-deed proclamation of God’s love for a broken and divided world.

The Church is human as well as Divine. At the deepest level, God organizes church and cosmos into Christ’s organic body-politic, whose members are interdependent and united under the direction of Christ their head. The real unity and eventual functional harmony of the Church are not in jeopardy, because they are guaranteed by God. By contrast, visible church institutions–the ways we organize ourselves–are human constructions that have no intrinsic authority. They gain credibility and earn our allegiance only insofar as they prove to be skillful means to Kingdom-ends.

Read the rest here.

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Thoughts on Bishop Orama’s pronouncements

I posted a brief blog on Wednesday 5th, reproducing Bishop Orama’s thoughts on homosexuals. The net exploded into activity, ranging from those who were supportive, to those who were vitriolic in their opposition. Sadly, some of those most vitriolic, and calling for war, are those who I’d consider to be similar to me in thought.

I believe the only Christian response to these sort of comments is to do as Jesus called us to do – to turn the other cheek, to persevere in love and forgiveness. The institutional church’s attitude to the comments will be the clincher as to how I relate to the church in the future – not to God. I’m increasingly convinced that some of the directions taken within the emerging / emergent church movement are the directions that we need to be moving in.

Church should be a place of growth and challenge, in a supportive environment. It shouldn’t be a place of refuge from the world – because we’re called to be in a constructive engagement with the world. Too often we in the church think that people outside should have to conform to what we consider to be the ideal community – based on our ideas. However, the reality is that our ideas are somewhat skewed by tradition and practice, not always according with what really is the ideal community.

I was reading yesterday Brian McLaren’s book, A Generous Orthodoxy. He used the image of church as a hospital – a place where people can find healing. Unfortunately, too often, the people from outside who want to find healing only find a place full of sick, or under trained, doctors and nurses. I don’t think being gay is a sickness from which I need healing, but I do think that the church should be a place where I can find some healing and rest from the pains and traumas that come from living as a gay man in the world. I also think that I have the call to serve and nurture others, and that the body of Christ, the Church, suffers if I’m not there – in the same way that it suffers if others with similar callings are not there.

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Bp. Orama: “Insane, Satanic Gays Not Fit to Live”

The following statement, from a bishop of the (Anglican) Church of Nigeria, is a significant challenge to me. I wonder if he and I belong to the same faith, and love the same Lord. Perhaps it is I who is deluded.

Cleric condemns homosexuals, lesbians

[I’ve deleted the content that was here, as I understand that the statement has been retracted by the journalist who made the report.]

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Quiet day

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This cheerful fellow is Bodhidharma, who is credited with bringing the Buddha-dharma to China.

After a few busy days I’m at home alone, with a sore mouth (dental work from Tuesday), pondering things. No special pondering, just thinking about life, the universe and everything.

A few things, though…

I wanted to write about how much of a blessing my partnership with Peter is. I derive such comfort, togetherness, challenge, love and support from it. It is no exaggeration to say that without him, and without the love and support of my parents and a few others, I would be in a deep dark place today, I suspect. I sometimes fear that I give Peter less than he needs. He is good at emotional expression, I’m not, though I think I have learned to be better. One of the things about relationship, I’ve found, is that it knocks the rough edges off if you let it. That can be a painful process, but it is ultimately vital to growth as a person. The other thing is that in Peter’s love for me, acceptance and forgiveness, I see the love, acceptance and forgiveness of God, very powerfully. All of this makes me wonder about the rightness of a position, intellectual, theological, moral, ethical or otherwise, that says that our relationship is wrong. Isn’t this how they should be?

During this time of my illness, especially, my parents have been rocks of support. Picking up the pieces when no-one else could or would, and making a thousand things, little or big, easier or even possible. They are beautiful, loving and giving people. Peter’s mum, too, has been a source of great strength, telephoning and checking how I am when Peter is away, sending helpful little somethings, listening and encouraging.

I wanted to write, too, about the torment in the Anglican Communion. The battle lines are clearly drawn, and it seems to me, from what I read (though it must be noted that although I read stuff from both sides of the debate, it is hard to find a neutral but informed position), that some sort of realignment within the Communion is likely. I don’t know what effect that will have on Australia. I guess it will remain to be seen. What is terribly disappointing is the lack, I feel, of loving care for one another in the debate. Christendom is not good at sorting these things out, and has a nasty history of doing great violence and damage to those who disagree.

Peter starts his new job on Monday – I really hope he likes it and finds it fulfilling. He deserves that.

(Why a picture of Bodhidharma? Well, I like it, for a start. Also because I relate to the stories about him being a difficult man who nonetheless sought enlightenment. I find it much easier to relate to saintly figures who are human, and who like me have doubts, uncertainties, personality flaws, and make mistakes.)

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Gay marriage

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Last night I watched Four Corners (an Australian TV programme presenting investigative journalism), which presented a report on the ‘rise’ of the evangelical movement in the US. Some of it is probably applicable to Australia. It was a fairly scary program, I thought, because it presented a movement which is sophisticated in its methods to acquire power, determined to apply its moral positions, but also very unsophisticated in its understanding of the world, of the Bible, and of Christianity in general. I know there are many, many evangelicals who do not fit into this mould – who are open, tolerant, intellectually rigourous and willing to work with others, even when they differ with themselves. But I found these people scary. An initial thought I had was how can I call myself Christian when these people claim the entire terrain for themselves. I’m liberal by no means, but I know that my theology and ecclesiology would be absolutely unacceptable, not to mention my ‘lifestyle’ (which I prefer to simply think of as my life!). Inevitably, the issue of gay marriage rights was covered, and I thought I’d write a little about my feelings on that issue.

I’m not an advocate of gay marriage, really. My reasons are fairly clear-cut – I think that the social institution of marriage is one for heterosexual couples. It is so infused with meaning and history that I think attempts to change this would be harmful for everyone. Having said that, I think it is clear that the meaning of marriage is changing over time – an inevitable thing. I suspect that it was a state into which most people entered with the expectation of remaining in it for life. I doubt that is so anymore. Marriage, for me, is a social contract between two people, recognised and legitimised by the state – sometimes witnessed and blessed by the church. I don’t think, particularly, that it is a hallowed or sacramental thing – indeed, for much of Christian history (at any rate), the church had significant trouble getting people to actually submit to marriage. I think that the Christian movement has appropriated an existing social institution and infused it with meaning. There is a Biblical mandate, to be sure, that celebrates and seeks to preserve marriage-like relationships. But we also have to note that what is translated as ‘marriage’ in the Bible is a social institution belonging to a different culture – the mores and rules around it were different to our own.

While I’m not keen on gay marriage, I am a strong supporter of the concept of civil unions, which would grant the same dignity, rights, responsibilities and provide the same protections as marriage. A civil union would have all of the legal status and formal recognition of marriage but without the religious associations. A civil union would provide a couple (same-sex or otherwise) with a way of formalising their relationship without asking, requiring or encouraging religious institutions to bless, hallow or recognise them. For some heterosexual couples a civil union may be a more attractive proposition than a religious wedding, being free of the religious overtones. A civil union would be registered in the same way, and be dissolved in the same way as a marriage.

Being Christian, I would like to think that my relationship, which brings me grace, shows me the face of God, and helps to shape me into a better person, could be recognised and encouraged by the Church, but I won’t hold my breath, nor at this point will I agitate for it. It is sufficient for me right now to know that God is in my relationship. I do want to celebrate it and formalise it, but I don’t need to be married in church.

I know this is a thorny subject, and these are merely my impressions on it. Believe me, I know the proof texts and the arguments against ‘gay marriage’, and I suspect those who are against gay marriage will also fight against civil unions for similar reasons, using similar arguments (’protect the family’, ‘promote social cohesion’, ‘adhere to Judeo-Christian morals and ethics’), and with similar effectiveness.

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