Give Thanks For This Kairos Moment of LGBT Inclusion

For Thanksgiving, More Light Presbyterians have released an important statement “Giving Thanks for Change in Our Church“:

This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for God’s extravagant love for all of God’s creation…no exceptions, no one outside of God’s embrace. This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for God’s sustaining grace in and through difficult times, loss of those we love, illness, economic hardships and war. This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for the peace that passes all understanding that comes from trusting that God’s redemptive love and justice is at work in our own lives, in the lives of others, in our Church and in the world.

The rest of the statement is worth reading, but is specific to the Presbyterian General Assembly’s approval last summer of 10-A, on the ordination of openly gay or lesbian pastors. Thanksgiving is a specifically an American observance. The principle of recognizing and giving thanks for progress, though, is an important one for all who are queer in church, anywhere in the world, as the evidence for progress is strong, across all major denominations and regions of the world.

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Fr Owen O’Sullivan on Gay Inclusion (Pt 1): Is Homosexuality Unnatural?

Extracts from Fr Owen Sullivan’s Furrow article on gay inclusion may be read at “Boundless Salvation”, where they have been reproduced by Jason Davies-Kildea, a Salvation Army officer serving as Social Program Secretary of the Melbourne Central Division. He has divided the series into eight parts, under the headings

Here at QTC, I shall be attempting to add some commentary of my own, keeping to the same eight -part division.

So, is homosexuality “unnatural”? I have already published numerous posts showing clearly that it is not, at least not in the sense of “found in nature”. Abundant evidence shows conclusively that same sex erotic activity is found throughout human history, in multiple cultural contexts, and in all branches of the animal kingdom.  I am not going to haul out this evidence yet again. Regular readers will be familiar with it, new readers can follow the links. But, I have been told,”natural” does not mean “moral”. Of course it doesn’t – but it also doesn’t mean immoral. In any case,I am told further, that is not what the theologians mean by “unnatural”. What then, do they mean?

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Cardinal Schonborn: Four Months, and In Benedict’s Favour.

It is now over four months since the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna made his remarks on the need to replace the Catholic obsession with homosexual acts with far greater emphasis on the quality of the relationships. For all those who expected a flood of outraged repudiation and denial, there has been  –  nothing, not a peep. There was a well-publicized meeting with Pope Benedict that some observers saw as a dressing-down – but the discussions appear to have been solely on the criticisms of Cardinal Sordano, not the remarks on sexuality. Even that, if it was indeed some kind of rebuke, is quite clearly now gone and forgotten. For the pope’s annual gathering of his former theology students, Cardinal Schonborn had a signal place of honour, being invited to deliver the homily at the closing Mass, which Benedict himself celebrated.  This is what Rocco Palma had to say at Whispers in the Loggia:

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James Alison Book Launch: "Broken Hearts and New Creation"

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the launch of theologian James Alison’s new book “Broken Hearts and New Creation”. I have known James since I first starting attending the London Soho gay Masses, where he was then a regular, and have read and admired all his his previous books, which have significantly influenced my own thinking, so I looked forward to this with anticipation. I was not disappointed – the evening even exceeded my expectations.

For those unfamiliar with his work, I offer some brief background. James is a priest, who was formerly a Dominican and teacher of theology. He was forced to leave the order some years ago for his insistence on speaking honestly about homosexuality, and since then has forged a new career as an independent theologian, writing, lecturing and leading workshops around the world. He is openly gay, but refuses to identify as a “gay theologian” – rather, he says he is a theologian who writes from a gay perspective. This shows, as his work is admired not only by gay Catholics, but also in the wider theological fraternity. (He was introduced at the launch as “every theologian’s second favourite theologian – after themselves”.)

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Water Into Wine: Jesus’ Gay Wedding at Cana

Yesterday I dipped into two books, and found ideas that amplified  each other with powerful effect, especially in the current context of advances for marriage equality and the bishops’ opposition. “Take Back the Word” (ed Robert Goss) is a compilation of writings on Scripture designed to take us as queer Christians beyond battles with the “texts of terror”, to an approach more in keeping with what it should be, a source of inspiration and value in our lives.  “Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body ” (ed Gerard Loughlin) is a broader and more ambitious compilation, of writing on a range of the dimensions of faith from a queer perspective.

 

Who was getting married?

 

In the introduction to his book, Loughlin reflects on the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana, (John 2: 1 – 11) which we usually think of in terms of the transformation of water into wine. Immediately I thought of this as a wonderful alternative image for Goss’s “Take Back the Word”. It is one thing for us to move beyond a fear of Scripture to a point where it is the “water” of life: but how can we go beyond even that, to the “wine” of celebration? Read the rest of this entry »

Lesbian / Feminist Theology: Sensuous, Erotic

“Lesbian theology developed as a distinct body of theology in primary relationship with feminist rather than gay male liberal or liberationist theology. The influence of gay male theology upon lesbian theology has been minimal, but lesbian theology has had an enormous influence on gay liberationist theology as  gay liberationist theologians sought to acknowledge and “respect” the difference of lesbians”

– Elisabeth Stuart, Gay and Lesbian Theologies

Characteristic of these feminist/lesbian theologians is a celebration of  the sensuousand the “erotic”  – but an eroticism which is much more broadly defined than as mere genital titillation. For these women, the erotic includes joy in relationships of all kinds, not necessarily sexual.

Stuart identifies the most important and influential of these feminist theologians as Carter Heyward, but also discusses the work of Mary E Hunt and herself – Elisabeth Stuart.

Carter Heyward

Touching Our Strength: The Erotic As Power and the Love of God (1989)

Saving Jesus From Those Who Are Right

Anne Bathurst Gilson

Eros Breaking Free: Interpreting Sexual Theo-Ethics

Virginia Ramey Mollenkott

Sensuous Spirituality

Mary E. Hunt

Fierce Tenderness: A Feminist Theology of Friendship

 

Elisabeth Stuart

Just Good Friends: Towards a Lesbian and Gay Theology of Relationships

Gay Liberation Theology: An “Exodus”

In the introduction to “Gay & Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions With Critical Difference“, her account of the historical development of gay and lesbian / queer theology, Elisabeth Stuart describes how they originated in three strands of more general twentieth century theology:  the “turn to the self” which was the defining characteristic of liberal theology; the “turn to others”, as shown in liberation theology; and the “turn to the text”, in post-modern theology. The second of these turns, “to the other” in liberation theology, worked in different ways for gay men and for lesbians.

For women, the ideas of liberation theology first had an impact in feminist theology, and only then on lesbian theology, which at times is barely distinguishable from specifically lesbian thinking. For men, the impact was much more directly on gay liberation theology. For both strands, the essential method was the same – drawing on the formation of base communities for prayerful reflection on their real life situations and conditions to draw theological insights.

The feminist / lesbian theologians I will deal with later. The gay male liberation theologies Stuart groups under the chapter heading “Exodus” – appropriately drawing on the Hebrew flight from Egypt and the freedom from slavery that it meant. The key writers she identifies as making up this group are:

J Michael Clark

A Place to Start: Toward and Unapologetic Gay Liberation Theology (1989)

A Defiant Celebration: Theological Ethics and Gay Sexuality (1990)

Beyond Our Ghettos: Gay Theology in Ecological Perspective (1993)

Defying the Darkness: Gay Theology in the Shadows (1997)

Gary David Comstock

Gay Theology Without Apology (1993)

Richard Cleaver

Know My Name (1995)

Daniel T Spencer

Gay and Gaia: Ethics, Ecology, and the Erotic (1996)

John McNeill’s Theology of Sex as Play

In my post yesterday about Elizabeth Stuart’s commentary on the gay and lesbian theology pioneers, I included some brief references to the early books of John McNeill. In his latest book, “Sex as God Intended“, McNeill substantially expanded his ideas about the theology of sex as play. At his blog, “JOHN MCNEILL SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION”, he has a pair of posts up sharing these ideas for an on-line readership.

In part one, he reminds of quotations by two great early theologians. St Ireneaus taught ” Gloria Dei, homo vivens. (The glory of God are humans fully alive). That includes being sexually fully alive.  St Augustine (who is so often interpreted incorrectly as a key originator of homophobia in Christian theology) wrote “Ama! Et fac quod vis! (Love and then do whatever you want!)”, to which McNeill adds “Exactly! Because what ever a lover wants will be in complete harmony with the spirit of God!”.

The key Scripture text of course for sex as play is the Song of Songs, but what I found most intriguing in this discussion was a consideration of the nature of play. The key lies in play as a total and complete focus on the moment:

But what makes sex play? The human experience of play, like love, is indefinable. We know what play is when we experience it, but we cant define it. Sociologists observe that a disturbed child ceases to play when it experiences the absence of love. Tht child can be freed to begin to play again only when it feels the security of uncondiional love. Simlarly, we adults are free to play only if we feel loved. Ultimately it is the human experience of God’s unconditional love that frees us to totally indulge the spirit of play all our lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 15th: The Gay Centurion

In Catholic tradition, Longinus is the name given to the Roman centurion at the crucifixion who pierced Christ’s side with his spear. Some writers, like Paul Halsall of the LGBT Catholic Handbook, also identify him with the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his “beloved boy”, who was ill. It is this second person that I am interested in here. In this persona, he is one of my personal favourites, as his story shows clearly how the Lord himself is completely not hostile to a clearly gay relationship, and also because we hear a clear reminder of this every time we attend Mass – if only we have ears to hear.

It may be that you do not recall any Gospel stories about a gay centurion and his male lover, but that is because cautious or prudish translators have softened the words of the text, and because the word “gay” is not really appropriate for the historical context. You are more likely to know as the story as the familiar one of the Roman centurion and his “servant” – But this is a poor translation. Matthew uses the word “doulos“, which means slave, not a mere servant. Luke uses quite a different word, “pais“, which can mean servant boy – but more usually has the sense of a man’s younger male lover – or “boyfriend”. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

A New Kind of Christianity

Brian MacLaren, described as a leader in the evangelical “Emerging Church” movement, in “A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith
“, 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. Read the rest of this entry »