"Hate Has No Place In The House of God": Desmond Tutu

From the Washington Post, Desmond Tutu on Hate in Africa:

No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity -- or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds. In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied many of them fundamental human rights. We knew this was wrong. Thankfully, the world supported us in our struggle for freedom and dignity.

It is time to stand up against another wrong.

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Yet Another Evangelical Conversion

On the Washington Post Faith page, yet another evangelical pastor describes how he came to change his mind on what he calls the "sex question".  What do you suppose was the critical factor in this conversion? Right.  Listening to the testimony of real people.

[caption id="attachment_5222" align="aligncenter" width="239" caption="A New Kind of Christianity"][/caption]

Brian MacLaren, described as a leader in the evangelical "Emerging Church" movement, tells how he no longer sides with the views of his friends and associates of a similar church background:

Most of my good friends sincerely and passionately hold the strict conservative view on homosexuality with which we all were raised. They can't understand why I don't stand side by side with them on this issue any more. To some, I've become a traitor, to others, a casualty in the culture wars, to others, frankly, a problem and an embarrassment.

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John McNeill: Homophobic Abuse and Distortion of Scripture

Guestpost: Gay theologian, psychotherapist and former Jesuit, Dr Fr John McNeill has sent me this commentary on Renato Ling's interpretation of Leviticus 18:22:

[caption id="attachment_5234" align="alignleft" width="299" caption="John McNeill"][/caption] The recent effort of evangelical pastor Martin Ssempa under the tutelage of American Evangelicals to pass a "kill the gays" bill in the Uganda parliament and the extensive persecution of GLBT people  throughout eastern Africa is based primarily on a questionable interpretation of a passage in Leviticus 18: 22.
The words of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Vatican Council II deal with the interpretation of Sacred Scripture:

"Since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in a human fashion, the interpreter of sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words"

This cautious investigation of the intention of the human author is especially called for in  dealing with the biblical passages which traditionally been accepted as dealing with homosexual activity. We are keenly aware that back in the days of slavery, slave owners regularly quoted passages from scripture to justify keeping slaves as God's will.  There is a real possibility that the homophobia of the translators and their culture has led  to a distortion of the meaning of scripture.

The best way to arrive at an understanding of what the author means by this verse is to read it within the overall context of Leviticus. "Just as the overall aim of Leviticus is to ban incestuous heterosexual practices.  Lev. 18.22 may well be there to ensure that homosexual incest is added to the list of proscriptions

This understanding of Leviticus frees us from making the assertion that God wills the death or imprisonment of all those humans that God created gay.

John McNeill's Books:

John McNeill's Books: The Church and the Homosexual Freedom, Glorious Freedom Both Feet Firmly Planted in mid-Air Taking a Chance on God Sex as God Intended John McNeill's Websites: johnmcneill.com mauriceblondel.com

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Bishop James Jones: Another Evangelical Ally?

When the Anglican Church appeared set to ordain an openly gay bishop back in 2003, one of those vocally and aggressively opposed was Bishop James Jones, of Liverpool. However, he later apologised for this aggression, and undertook to listen more  to other views on sexuality.  As I have noted before, when people can be persuaded to listen with an open mind, views begin to change.  Earlier this week I wrote about the conversion journey of the US Presbyterian theologian Dr Mark Achtemeier, who describes himself as both conservative and evangelical ("And Grace Will Lead Me Home").  In his case, the conversion was complete, and now argues actively in favour of full inclusion in church, including same sex marriage and ordination.

[caption id="attachment_5217" align="aligncenter" width="393" caption="Bishop James Jones"][/caption]

Bishop James, who is associated with the evangelical wing of the UK Anglican Church, does not seem to have gone quite that far (not yet), but he does now argue for recognition that differing views and interpretations of Scripture are possible. He recently voted in favour of a decision to grant pensions to civil partners of gay clergy. With the formal confirmation of the USA's first openly lesbian bishop expected within weeks, he is encouraging his fellow evangelicals not to overreact to this.   He has also said that he is "in sympathy" with the House of Lords amendment this week which will allow religious premises to be used for Civil Partnerships.

The evidence is clear.  Difficult as it is, we need to find ways to speak to those who are so opposed to us.  Many will not listen, and will remain rigidly wedded to their preconceptions.  But where we can engage a few, we must.  In listening, they will modify their own views.  Thereafter, they will help to modify the views of others. The Holy Spirit is clearly working in this matter to "renew the face of he earth".  She deserves our help.

Some extracts from "Ekklesia":
The Bishop has not explicitly abandoned his longstanding view that same-gender sexual relationships are unethical. However, he appeared concerned not to condemn same-sex couples when, in his words, “in a world of such little love, two people sought to express a love that no other relationship could offer them”. Jones’ stance on religious same-sex partnerships is markedly different from certain other conservative Anglican bishops. The amendment recently approved by the House of Lords will give churches the freedom to host same-sex partnership ceremonies if they choose, but will not require them to do so. However, Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester, has been widely criticised for suggesting that the law will allow clergy to be sued for refusing to carry them out, a claim inaccurately reported as fact in parts of the media. In contrast, James Jones’ comments are in tune with those evangelicals who have shifted their position on homosexuality in recent years. There are now several evangelical organisations which accept the validity of same-sex relationships. In a particularly controversial section of his remarks, Jones challenges the notion that sexuality is a matter of choice, saying instead that it is a “given”. The Bishop compared the Church’s divisions over sexuality with its ability to accommodate a variety of attitudes to war. “On a number of major moral issues, the Church allows a large space for a variety of nuances, interpretations, applications and disagreements,” he said. “The day is coming when Christians who equally profoundly disagree about the consonancy of same-gender love within the discipleship of Christ will in spite of their disagreement drink openly from the same cup of salvation,” he added. Colin Coward of the pro-inclusion group Changing Attitude gave a warm welcome to Jones’ comments. "This is both a strong affirmation of gay relationships and a confirmation of Anglican tradition,” said Coward. He added that Anglican tradition meant that “differences in attitude to homosexuality are not church-dividing and that Christians can live together in one church community respecting each other’s convictions”.
(Full report here)

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How to Right the Bishops

I have carried a few posts earlier this week about Joseph Gentolini, and his ministry of writing to the bishops.  This is a strategy I would like to see far more people adopting.   These are some guidelines Joseph one wrote for Dignity on how to go about it.  I find these suggestions constructive and helpful. I commend them for your own serious consideration:

14-Point Summary When Writing Our Bishops

Building the Relationship 1.      The goal is to develop a relationship with the Bishop, not to send a quick letter and then be done with it.  Realize that this will be a long-term communication process.  If you can, try and arrange a meeting with your Bishop.  If not, then write him. 2.      Know your purpose in writing: to influence?  To vent?  To Blame? 3.      Use "I" statements, not "you" statements.  "You" statements usually come across as blaming.  This is not what you want to do. 4.      Do not use words that convey intense anger.  This goes along with #2.  You may be angry, but try to take out the "blaming" or "accusatory" language.  This only puts the other on the defensive and makes it more difficult to hear your words and message. 5.      Be vulnerable – you have to share yourself – your thoughts, feelings, and spirituality.  Be humble and not arrogant. 6.      Speak for yourself.  Do not judge or assign motives or intent.  Talk about how Church teachings have hurt you. 7.      Whenever you have the opportunity to see the Bishop, make sure you introduce yourself again.  My partner's nieces have been confirmed and I made sure I went up to meet the Bishop again, telling him that I was working on another letter to him.  Several years ago, he told me that he "enjoyed our communication through the mail." 8.      Be respectful, if only for the office the Bishop holds in the Church or, if you can't respect the Office, respect his person. Other Important Thoughts on Content and Prayer 9.      Tell your story about being a gay or lesbian Catholic – the pain and the joys.  If you are in a relationship, make sure he knows this and what it means in your life. 10.  Use the Bishop's own language and symbolism if you can.  For example, in one of my letters, I used the language of the Catechism on racism to make a point on gays and justice.  After Always Our Children came out, I thanked him and told him that I hoped all parishes received a copy.  I also told him that it was orthodox just the way it was and urged him not to allow any changes. 11.  Don't hit all of the issues in one letter.  Take them each as they come up. 12.  Don't forget to look at the Diocesan paper, even if you find it offensive.  If there is an article on homosexuality or related issues, see if there is a letter you can write to give your point of view.  This is another way to communicate. 13.  Allow God to act – I am not responsible for the results of what I do or say – God is!  Let the Spirit use you – this takes an act of faith. 14.  Finally and maybe most important, pray for the Bishop and the Church and let him know that you keep him in prayer. COPYRIGHT 2007: Joseph Gentilini, Ph.D.

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Oscar Romero: Bishop of the Poor

As Bishop of the Poor, Oscar Romero is an appropriate model for all of us. By standing up firmly as a witness for truth, and against injustice and oppression of all kinds, he has additional significance for us as gay men, lesbians and transgendered in the Church.

If you want peace, work for justice.
Oscar Romero worked for justice, in the face of open opposition from his fellow Salvadorean bishops.  He was on the side of history, they were not. He understood that the obligation we have is to follow the Gospel, before we follow the rules of the Curial cabal. Where faithfulnesss to God and loyalty to a state are in conflict, the Church has always taught that loyalty to God must come first. Where faithfulness to the Gospels and loyalty to the bishops conflict, Romero showed that the truth of the Gospels is primary.

Changing the Church.

I have commented several times on John McNeill's thesis that we my be in a 'Kairos Moment' in which the Holy Spirit intervenes to change the direction of the Church.  Against the background of extraordinarily strong reaction to recent statements and actions from the Vatican, and previously unprecedented signs of Vatican sensitivity and response to such criticism, J.S. O Leary on his web page has agreed that the Kairos Moment is with us. It is appropriate then to revisit just what McNeill meant with his suggestion.

The argument was first put forward in an address to the Dignity conference back in October 2005, reprinted in his book "Sex as God Intended" (My review of the book will appear here on Monday 8th). I am delighted that with McNeill's help, I am able to post the full text of the Dignity address here, on my book pages.  Have a read, then consider:  are we experiencing the fundamental shifts in church power that both McNeill and O'leary are discerning?