Cathedral Wedding for Senior Lesbian Clerics

When Massachusetts introduced same sex marriage in 2003, it as alone among American states. Since then, a steady trickle of others have followed, either with meaningful civil unions or with full marriage equality. More will follow this year, and is increasingly obvious, as VP Biden has observed, that full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is now “inevitable” across the country. It is now only a matter of time.  Although the opponents of same-sex marriage claim theirs is a principled stand based in religion, it is also becoming obvious that religious opposition too is crumbling. As with so much else that was previously prohibited on the pretext of religious belief, the religious objections to homoerotic relationships will in time be recognised as without religious validity for the modern world.

One recent Boston wedding was just one more among many – but it carries with it strong symbolic importance, and is an important signpost to a future without religious discrimination. Two lesbian Episcopalian clerics, each holding an office of some seniority and importance in their diocese, were married in the Cathedral Church of St Paul in Boston, in a wedding service solemnized by the Episcopalian bishop of Massachusetts, the Right Reverend M Thomas Shaw SSJE.  What could be more respectable than that?

Read the rest of this entry »

Out in Church: Summer Progress Expected

Change is coming, of that there can be no doubt. (Sadly, in spite of the suggestion by Cardinal Schonborn, I am not here referring to the Catholic Church, but to others. Just how long Rome can lag behind, is another matter.)

First, consider the progress up to now. The Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ accepted full inclusion some time ago, and have many openly gay, lesbian and trans pastors.  Last year, in a blaze of publicity, the ELCA voted to approve the recognition of lesbian or gay partners in committed and faithful permanent relationships, without the expectation of celibacy, on exactly the same basis as heterosexual marriages. That decision was accompanied by many dire warnings of doom, and predictions that many congregations would secede in protest. There have been some withdrawals, but as far as I can tell, not too many. Meanwhile, life in the ELCA has continued as normal, and the decision came into practical effect earlier this year.

In the Episcopalian/ Anglican communion, things are more complex, with international ties and allegiances also coming into play. The US Episcopalians have now consecrated two openly gay or lesbian bishops, and have nominated but not approved a few others. In the UK, that decision has been highly controversial, but is closely tied up with controversy over women bishops, which (unlike the US) have hitherto not been permitted. British Quakers resolved last year bless same sex couples in church, and were influential in the recent change in the law to permit civil partnerships in religious premises. Meanwhile, the Swedish Lutheran church has also ordained a lesbian bishop, and has agreed to apply the new law on same sex marriage in church as well. The Danish and Icelandic Lutherans are considering following their Swedish counterparts in applying their own countries’ laws on gay marriage when they are approved by parliament.

In the US and Europe, therefore, progress to full inclusion in church is substantial, at least in American mainline Protestant denominations and their European counterparts. Where can we expect the next victories? With the summer assembly season approaching, these are the major things we should be looking for. Read the rest of this entry »

Homosexuality and the Bible: Bishop Gene Robinson

Queer Catholics often have a tortured relationship with the Bible.  As Catholics, scripture has usually been less prominent in our faith formation than for other denominations. As lesbians, gay men or other sexual minorities, we are always conscious of the abuse of Scripture used as a weapon against us. Fortunately, there are others, including some who should be important role models, who see things rather differently.

 

From Mark 15, Book of Kells (Wiimedia Comons)

 

A year ago at this time, I was developing my ideas for what became this blog:  prepared during Advent, launched during the Christmas season. In this current season Advent season, I am naturally reflecting on what I have and have not achieved. One of the more important failures has been around Scripture. Right from the start, I planned to share with my readers some of the Good News of Scripture – good news that applies specifically to us as gay men and lesbians, but also the more important Bible messages of hope and joy that are relevant to us all.  It is far too easy to hit the roadblock of the clobber passages, and either turn back, or to spend endless time and energy trying to climb over them.  It is important to remove the blockage, but sometimes it is also important to simply walk around, and to enjoy the rest of the biblical landscape.  I have been seeing a lot of useful insights recently, form John McNeill and others, which shed useful insight into the situation of queer Catholics, but which also have a lot to say to the wider church about the nature of authority and the workings of the Holy Spirit.  I have a further commentary on John McNeil which should be ready for posting later today, but in the meantime, as a useful corrective to the common queer Catholic wariness of Scripture, I thought it could be useful to share with you some thoughts of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, renowned as the first openly gay man to be ordained as bishop in the Anglican Communion.

(These are extracts from his book “In the Eye of the Storm”)

I LOVE THE BIBLE”

I love the Bible. With no reservations, no holding back.

I grew up in a Bible-believing congregation of the Disciples of Christ Church. Every Sunday morning, from ten to eleven, every member of the church, young and old, went to Sunday School, and the study was always about Scripture. From eleven to twelve, we worshipped God, always from the perspective of scripture.

But the experience I had as a child that sealed my love for the bible was this: I heard God’s voice coming through those scriptures.  I’d already begun to wonder about my “difference” and the thought scared me to death. My church was using the words of scripture to say that people who were attracted to others of the same sex were despicable, an “abomination” in the eyes of God.  And yet – and here’s the miracle – I heard God saying to me the words God said to Jesus at his baptism:  “You are my son, the beloved.  With you I am well pleased. [“Luke 3:22”] Read the rest of this entry »

“Traditional Marriage Is Between Men”: US Bishop.

Just a snippet from Box Turtle Bulletin, reporting on the NJ senate committee hearing.  I want to find out who is this sane but anonymous “Episcopal bishop” , who has correctly and clearly defined precisely what “traditional” marriage was all about – but it will have to wait until the morning – it’s close to midnight here.

“Episcopal Bishop endorses the bill: Marriage traditionally was not between a man and a woman. Rather it was a contract between two men, a father and a groom.”

The bishop is absolutely correct. In biblical times, for many centuries after and in some societies still, women were simply regarded as the property (or at best, as the wards) of men – first the families, then their husbands.  we still these in the most conventional church weddings in Western society, where the bride is “given away” by her father (or other man) to the groom.  This idea of bride as “property” explains the importance of consummation in completing the marriage contract:  the loss of a bride’s virginity had an immediate loss in her market value, making it impossible to return her for money back.    (The UK legislation for civil unions, which in most respects come pretty close to marriage in all practical respects, do not require consummation).  Adultery and lusting after another’s wife in the commandments are coupled with sins of theft and coveting his goods – adultery was seen as a crime against another man’s property rights over his wife.  Lastly, it is one factor (the other was the connection with temple prostitution) at  the heart of the biblical and early Christian precepts against same sex intercourse.  Throughout the Mediterranean world, sex between men was regarded as normal and natural – as long as the receptive partner was not an adult man of high status. To take the “passive” role was to behave like a woman, and it was that voluntary loss of status that aroused hostility of other “real men”. In a world which values women, the argument should be irrelevant.

Some other church people also spoke in support.  It’s important that we publicize this. The more people recognize that religious opinion is divided, the more difficult it becomes to apply the religious argument to legislative decisions:

A whole host of ministers are speaking in support of marriage equality. As one asked, “why can’t I conduct the marriages that my church supports?”

Lutheran minister: This is an issue of religious liberty.

Unitarians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Friends (Quakers), and Jews also speaking in support.

Meanwhile, the Catholic bishops, who have fiercely opposed same -sex marriage here  as fiercely as elsewhere, now claim that they support civil unions, which they previously opposed.

Even leading clerics have voiced their support. “Marriage is a union of one man and one woman and has its roots in natural law,” testified Patrick Branigan, representing the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey. Branigan said the Bishops, who once opposed the state’s civil union law, now support its enforcement fully. “Instead of trying to redefine marriage, the state of New Jersey should education the public and enforce existing laws,” he said.

This pretty well mirrors the response of the Portuguese bishops early this year.  Is it yet another reason to push for votes on full marriage, everywhere?  Win or lose, the pressure seems to lead to some movement by Catholic bishops towards grudging acceptance of some form of legal partnership recognition.

And Then There Were Three (Gay Bishops)*

This post has moved to my new domain at http://queering-the-church.com/blog