Rainbow Sash Movement

In response to my post concluding the Netherlands communions saga, Joe Murray of the Rainbow Sash movement has placed a comment “Join us on Pentecost Sunday“. I’m not sure if this is addressed to me personally, or to my readers as an open invitation. He also does not specify a venue – or even a country. The invitation, however, has merit, so I will treat it as an open invitation, which may be accepted in a range of churches worldwide. This is probably a good time to introduce the Rainbow Sash Movement – for those who do not already know of it.

From the Rainbow Sash website:

The Rainbow Sh Movement had its beginning in England. Nick Holloway was the first GLBT Catholic to wear the Rainbow Sash, a movement was born. The Rainbow Sash then travelled to Australia where it developed into a ecumenical group. It’s leadership was no longer strictly Catholic.

The US Rainbow Sash Movement was founded by Joe Murray, and he became the first US Convener. He honors the founder’s purpose to begin a dialogue within the Church about human sexuality, and the dignity of GLBT people. The US Rainbow Sash Movement has remained a Catholic Organization in membership and leadership. We wear Rainbow Sashes on Pentecost Sunday each year because we understand Pentecost as a celebration of the whole Church. The Bishops response to our form of self identification has been to refuse us the Holy Eucharist. They claim by self identifying we are protesting, so if we remain hidden we can receive the body and blood of Christ. In light of what the Catechism says that homosexual people “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (CCC 2358). There is something morally incoherent about that position.

Some people are concerned that the Rainbow Sash method is confrontational, a concern that I once shared. However, there is a response to this charge. For my own part, I am concerned that in the absence of any structures for quiet, peaceful discussions with ecclesiastical authorities, what else are we to do? When I have attended Mass at my local parish, I have had an uneasy sense of dishonesty involved. I know that I can always attend and receive communions there – because I am anonymous, and my sexuality unknown. But this comes dangerously close to what Siobhan Garrigan described as “passing” – or working on the assumption that others will assume I am straight. I left the closet a long time ago, and have no desire to re-enter it just to keep life easy for the clergy. Besides, I think this kind of camouflage in church is fundamentally dishonest, and one of the key attributes of God, I was taught, is truth.

This is the Rainbow sash response to the complaint of “confrontation”:

The word “confrontation” usually means facing a direct challenge. Some in the Church attribute the wearing of the Rainbow Sash as a form of polemic of opposing
views. The Rainbow Sash Movement (RSM) believes there is a deeper meaning to the wearing of the Rainbow Sash beyond confrontation. Instead it is a direct attempt to have the Rainbow Sash Movement and the Bishops face each other, and attempt to clarify a misunderstanding based on homophobic notions of LGBT People. Clarification not confrontation is at issue when members of the Rainbow Sash Movement wear the Sash at the Cathedral of St. Matthews in Washington DC.

Contrary to some US Bishops the wearing of the Rainbow Sash is neither confrontation/protest or political. It is an attempt to tell our stories outside the framework of homophobia. By misrepresenting the intentions of the Rainbow Sash Movement love is replaced with fear and rejection and has become the sign of the times within the Body of Christ.

Confrontation is a two way process. The Dutch experience (before sanity returned) showed how things can easily go wrong. This 2005 letter from Archbishop Mahoney shows how a diocese can be equally sensible in dealing with the Rainbow Sash. A simple presence at Mass is not confrontational, unless the celebrant chooses to make it so.

Joe Murray the US Convener of the Rainbow Sash Movement was contacted by Tod M. Tamberg, Director of Media Relations, Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The following is that communication:

“May 13, 2005

Dear Joe,

Just a note to say that, as in the past, members of the Rainbow Sash Movement who come to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels this Sunday will be most welcome to attend any of our Masses. Over the years, Cardinal Roger Mahony has consistently spoken to the faithful in Los Angeles about being respectful and inclusive of our Catholic brothers and sisters who are gay and lesbian. All of us struggle to be better Christians, but I think a good number of our parishes in the archdiocese are places where people feel welcome and included, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Tod M. Tamberg
Director of Media Relations
Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”

“What Cardinal Believe”

My somewhat flippant initial response to Joe’s invitation was to ask “Where?”, but the question is really unnecessary. Rainbow Sash is active in many parts of the world, in cathedrals and smaller local churches, every year on Pentecost Sunday. To find a likely location this year you, you could try signing up on their Facebook page. I would imagine that as the date draws nearer, there will be information posted. Or, sign up as a member at Rainbow Sash Alliance.

Rainbow Sash Facebook page

Rainbow Sash Movement

Rainbow Sash Alliance

Rainbow Sash Australia

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3 Responses to “Rainbow Sash Movement”

  1. Joe Murray Says:

    For Your Information

    Press Release

    For Immediate Release

    Rainbow Sunday at Westminster Cathedral London
    Join the Rainbow Sash Movement on May 23, 2010
    at the 10:30 AM Liturgy at Westminster Cathedral,
    42 Francis Street, London SW1P 1QW United
    Kingdom. The Rainbow Sash is worn during the
    Sacred Liturgy as a symbol of self identification, and
    indicates that the wearer is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
    Transgender, Ally (LGBTA).

    Pentecost is the Birthday of the Universal Church it
    is a time to celebrate our diversity as a people of
    faith with honesty. We welcome all who believe that
    all the member s of our Church can approach the
    sacred Eucharist with humility, and integrity.

    Participation does not require membership in the
    Rainbow Sash Movement or that you need to be of
    the Catholic faith. None Catholics are encouraged to
    join us in this celebration.

    Join us in this as we celebrate the Rainbow Family of
    the Church on Pentecost Sunday.

    Contact Person

    Tod Amstrong
    Rainbow Sash Movement
    Chair UK Outreach
    email: liturgy@rainbowsashmovement.com

  2. Rainbow Sash Movement Says:

    For your information

    Rainbow Sash Movement UK has a web site. http://welcomehome0525.wordpress.com/

    The issue for the Rainbow Sash Movement is integrity as it applies to both the individual and any Church ministry. Lacking visibility in the Church, only promotes the idea of shame. We welcome any Catholics in the UK who would like to join us.

    • Terence@queerchurch Says:

      Joe, the problem I have with this “UK” Rainbow Sash website is that nobody that I know here has any knowledge of them, and that includes some people with extensive contacts among gay and other progressive church groups. I was even told that Nick Holloway, who founded the Sainbow Sash here, has said that the Sash in the UK is “dormant”.

      That seems to have been corroborated by the experience over Pentecost this year, when a well-publicised press release announced that wearers of the sash “would” be present at Westminster Cathedral and encouraged others to join them, a release that I published and promoted in good faith. This drew strong and emotional reactions from many, both gay activists and others. Yet on the day, nobody appeared. This leaves a strong impression that rather than an announcement of actions planned by local people, it may have been simply an attempt by outsiders to use publicity to create an action.

      I increasingly have strong sympathy with the ideas and the methods of Rainbow Sash, but before I promote the “UK branch” again, I will want clear information on who they are, and evidence that they exist as real people with independent existence outside a web address.


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