Would Jesus Support Gay Marriage?

Gay Clergy: Rev Peter Gomes (Gay, Black, Baptist, Republican) – RIP.

In the growing ranks of out and open gay or lesbian clergy, Peter Gomes was an anomaly: he was raised Catholic, but became a Baptist pastor. He was also African American, and a Republican. Not, in short, an obvious fit with the popular image of an American gay man. But (and this is important) he was able to recognize and publicly acknowledge his sexuality, and to reconcile it with his faith. This is an important reminder for us that there is no conflict at all between a gay or lesbian orientation and religious faith, or with conservative political philosophy. The only conflict is with those influential people in some churches and in some political circles who seek to impose their own interpretations of Scripture, or their own political prejudices, on everybody else – in disregard of the fundamental Gospel message of inclusion and justice, and the conservative principle of non-interference in private lives.

I have no personal knowledge of the life or work of Rev Gomes, other than the inspiring title of his book, “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good About the Good News?“. (The Gospel message is indeed scandalous, and should be read much more carefully by those who in their ignorance use it to promote their modern conceptions of so-called “traditional” family values, or untramelled capitalism).

Instead of extensive researching and writing a full assessment of Rev Gomes myself, I simply draw your attention to reports elsewhere.

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“Come Out”, Do Not Be Ashamed, Filipino Archbishops Tell Gay Catholics

The website of the Filipino television station GMA News has an intriguing report that two Archbishops, Paciano Aniceto pf San Fernando and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz have urged to “come out in the open”, because they have nothing to be ashamed of.

Their full message does not depart from the formal position of Vatican doctrine, as it repeats the standard distinction between “homosexual persons” and  “homosexual acts”, and repeats the warning that these “acts” because they are “contrary to natural law”, and do not flow from “natural complementarity”. In this respect, they are as offensive as many other utterances from our bishops and the Vatican. (The occasion for this remarks was the Philippines launch of the book ”  ” by Fr John Harvey, the founder of Courage).   Nevertheless, I see some good news in this report, supporting my belief that there is a gradual and welcome shift of emphasis underway. There are two elements of this shift evident in the bishops’ message.

Image via Wikipedia

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Breaking the silence

Gay Priest “Bart” continues his weekly series:

I ended my last post by asking: will our silence [forced as it so often is] be judged as complicity in the Church’s deceptive ways? It’s a question that has been troubling me for quite some time now, not only as a gay priest who is going through a coming-out process, but also in the wider sense, as a member of the Catholic Church. Even as I was grappling with this complex subject, I was informed of a recent documentary shown on BBC’s Channel Four. Entitled Father Ray Comes Out, it presents a very touching account of the coming-out of an Anglican vicar – Father Ray Andrews – to his congregation during a Sunday homily. For the benefit of my readers, I thought of embedding the story here (in 2 parts), before expanding on the subject in today’s post.


and

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The Transformation of Christian Response to Homoerotic Love

You’d never guess it if your only knowledge of the churches and homosexuality came from Focus on the Family, NOM or California Catholic Daily in the US, or from Christian Voice or the rule-book Catholic blogs in the UK, or from breakaway groups in the Anglican communion worldwide, but we are in the midst of a dramatic, wholesale transformation of the Christian churches’ response to homoerotic relationships. This is clearly leading in the direction of full inclusion in church for queer Christians, and for evaluating couple relationships and their recognition in church on a basis of full equality. This is bound to lead in time to profound improvements in the  political battles for full equality, and in the mental health of the LGBT Christian community.

These are bold statements. Am I mistaken? Am I deluding myself? It is of course possible that this is a case of wishful thinking, that I am misreading or exaggerating the evidence.  It’s possible – but I don’t think so. The evidence is compelling, if not yet widely noted. To substantiate my argument, I want to present the facts, and their implications, in some detail. As there is too much for a single post, I begin today with just a summary, as heads of argument. I will expand on the main sections in later posts, which I have in preparation.

(For now, I have made no attempt to supply detailed substantiation or links – these will follow, as I expand later on each specific theme).

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Image via Wikipedia

 

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“The Gift of Gay” – The Priest Who Came Out, aged 90!

Father Matthew Kelty, OCSO, was a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where he was the last confessor to Thomas Merton. He also came out as gay at the age of 90.

The full obituary is worth reading at Religion Dispatches – I want to reflect only on the coming out story, and Fr Matthew’s assertion that gay is a gift – especially in the pursuit of monastic celibacy.

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Joseph O’Leary, on Catholic Theology and “Redefining” Marriage

Fr Joseph O’Leary has a useful short post at his blog, on the eruption of opposition by the English bishops to the (very modest) proposed amendments to the UK civil partnership provisions. He makes the point I have done before, that the Church has itself participated in the constant redefinition of marriage over the centuries, but adds an important observation that I had not realised: that historically, these redefinitions have come from the people, and only later have been ratified by the state and the church. Nothing new, then, in the current process of redefinition. In many countries, the state is already following the popular lead in recognizing same sex relationships. Most churches (not all, not by a long way) are further behind – but they too will catch up:

Apparently the recent papal visit has galvanized opposition among English Catholic bishops to anything resembling gay marriage. Now they denounce Quakers and liberal Jews for daring to host civil partnership registrations, saying that no one has the right to redefine marriage. In fact, of course, marriage has been redefined many times throughout history. It is only since the 15th century or so that the Church itself has defined marriage as a sacrament. Such redefinitions come from the people in the first case, and are only later ratified by church and state. Today the Church has to face the growing reality of gay unions that resemble marriage, and when it buries its head in the stand, refuses to come up with an intelligent response, refuses dialogue and consultation, it is only making itself ridiculous.

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Muslim Gay Marriage, UK

Popular speech accepts that “Catholics” oppose homosexuality because that is the publicly expressed view from the Vatican, but completely overlooks evidence from research that most real – life Catholics in fact do not see homosexuality as a moral issue and even support legal recognition for same sex marriage;   ignores the historical evidence that queer relationships have always been a  fact of church life at all levels of the church; and the plainly observable fact that the outwardly homophobic face of the church is belied by an intensely homoerotic culture. In the same way,  the popular perception that Muslims are implacably opposed to homosexuality is also a gross oversimplification, which is contradicted by the facts.

Classical Arab literature is replete with examples of works which celebrate the delights of wine and beautiful boys. In the years when homosexual activity was subject to strong legal sanction in Western countries, wealthy gay men regularly took holidays or even permanent settlement in some Arab cities, where such pleasures could be pursued without legal penalties – and the supply of pliable and available young men abundant. In spite of the public face of Islamic hostility today, private toleration and practice of same sex relationships continues, even today.

A recent BBC report on the story of one lesbian couple who celebrated their marriage in a traditional Muslim form  illustrates this  – and also reminds us that marriage exists and is real, even where there is no legal recognition of it. Here are some extracts from that report: Read the rest of this entry »

Confused English Bishops, and the Catholic “Redefinition” of Marriage.

A firestorm has erupted among some British church people and commentators over government proposals to amend the civil partnership regulations, allowing the ceremonies to be conducted on religious premises, and using religious words, symbols or music. I have avoided commenting up to now, because the precise substance of the proposals has been unclear, and has been badly misrepresented in some press reports, as providing for “gay marriage” in church. This is simply false reporting, arising from the close similarity of British civil marriage in civil partnerships in their legal import – so that many newspapers simply ignore the difference in their reporting, and routinely refer to civil partnerships as “marriage” – which they are not. This has not deterred the howls of protest in some quarters, complaining about the state’s interference to redefine marriage, and more laughably still, to restrict religious freedom.

Particularly incoherent examples of this have come from Austin Ivereigh at “America” magazine (where I really expect better). I ignored his first post last week (which I did not see until a friend emailed me a link late on Sunday), but responded to a follow-up post, in which he reported that the Catholic bishops will strenuously oppose the legislation. This was the response I placed, earlier today:

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Presbyterian Inclusion: Ratification Looks Promising

Last year, the Presbyterian Church of the USA voted to approve changes in the criteria for ordination of clergy, in terms which do not discriminate against partnered gay or lesbian candidates. The resolution removes a paragraph which includes the requirement

to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness.

and inserts instead:

Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

In effect, this is a vote for full inclusion of LGBT Presbyterians in the life of the Church. The vote at General Assembly must be ratified by a majority of local presbyteries before it takes effect. 2010 was not the first time that General Assembly voted in favour of inclusion: similar resolutions were passed in 2009, and   and – but failed to secure ratification. This year could be different.

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