Paul Abels (August 4, 1937 – March 12, 1992) U.S.A

A striking feature of LGBT Church history, is how after a long period of invisibility, in the years following Stonewall, gay clergy followed other gay men and lesbians in coming out of their closets. Facing the prospect of so much more hostile reaction than those in some other professions, and with housing as well as income and career at stake, these people were embarking on acts of rare courage. In doing so, they were simply bearing witnessing to the truth of their lives, and its integration into their faith. In doing so, they can truly be regarded as modern martyrs. Paul Abels was one of the first. Like many others, he ultimately lost his career through his prophetic witness, and was forced to rebuild a new one outside of the church.

Catholic Clergy, Gay Sex – and Church History.

Last week, there were reports from Italy that undercover reporters had shadowed three priests, and had followed them to gay sex clubs. Video footage, allegedly of these priests in the clubs, in a private flat where one of them had sex with a man, and of one saying Mass, has been posted on line. The Catholic Church says it is “embarrassed” .

It needn’t be – there’s a long history of Catholic clergy having sex with men, from the earliest church to modern times. Read the rest of this entry »

Lutheran Inclusion: Clergy Welcomed in San Francisco

This past summer, the PCUSA General Assembly voted to recognise openly gay and lesbian clergy. Last summer, the ELCA did the same. In neither case, did the decision immediately end the problems of the past. First, ratification was required, which the ECLA have since done, but not yet the PCUSA. That still was not enough.  We can all too easily overlook the long years of hurt inflicted on queer clergy prior to this decision. Changing the law is not enough: hurts must also be healed.

This is why I like this report , of a celebratory admission procedure for seven pastors in the San Francisco area.   Even before the Assembly decision last year, there were many gay or lesbian pastors working in welcoming congregations, but they could not get formal recognition on church rosters. With a change in regulations, it would presumably be a simple matter technically to arrange the inclusion on the roster in a simple, low key way – but that would not address the real problem.

Instead, the ceremony that has been planned will be joyous and festive. In addition to formally welcoming these pastors into full acceptance and inclusion, and making partial recompense for the years of slight, it will also be recognizing the many years of work, across a broad front, that led to the decision.  Chris Glaser and other queer writers on faith have observed that we, as gay, lesbian and trans people in church, have a need for formal ceremonies to mark our own special life transitions – such as coming out- which can be described as truly sacramental. This ceremony is just such a sacramental moment for these San Francisco Lutherans. Let us join with them in giving thanks and sharing our prayers – then extend the work into other faiths which still have further to go.

From the Kansas City Star:

“It’s going to be an extremely glorious and festive ceremony because it’s the culmination of decades of work to welcome LGBT people into the ELCA,” said Amalia Vagts, executive director of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a nonprofit that credentials openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people for ministry.

Megan Rohrer, one of the pastors who will participate in Sunday’s rite of reception service, grew up in South Dakota and attended a Lutheran college where she said students tried to exorcise her “gay demons” by throwing holy water on her. Some of those people are now Lutheran pastors in South Dakota, she said.

Rohrer, who is transgender and a lesbian, was ordained by four congregations in San Francisco in 2006, but could not join the ELCA roster until the denomination’s national assembly approved the new policy in August.

“I didn’t really believe the policy was going to change as quickly as it did,” she said.

Rohrer said she is hopeful Sunday’s service will be a “symbol” to young people that the Lutheran church is working toward becoming more welcoming of people of all different backgrounds.

Jeff Johnson, another one of the pastors who will be added to the roster, said the ELCA’s position for years of not accepting the choice of some congregations to ordain gay clergy was painful and disappointing.

“The actions the church is taking on Sunday affirms the decisions of those congregations,” Johnson, pastor of the University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, said. “The church is respecting our family, our partners, the choices we’re making.”


(Read the full story)

The Presbyterians’ New, Fiercely Pro-Gay Moderator.

The Presbyterian General Assembly continues to meet all week, and it could be days before there is any clarity on the important decisions to be taken on ordaining openly gay pastors, or on church recognition for same sex unions. One hopeful early sign though, may have come from the election of the new Moderator, whom Christian Post describes as “pro-gay”.

No, correction: it’s not just the CP that calls her “pro-gay”. She does so herself, very explicitly: Read the rest of this entry »

Outing the Church: Archbishop Wuerl, Homosexual Ministry & Gay Marriage.

Two notable bloggers have  current posts on some bishops’ perceptions of their teaching role: “locking down discussion“, is how William Lindsay at Bilgrimage describes it – even when the dissent comes from fellow bishops.  (Bishop Sample of Marquette has banned Bishop Gumbleton from speaking in his diocese, because he has uncomfortable and “well-known” views on homosexuality and women’s ordination.  Even though neither of these were up for discussion, he appears to be afraid that his colleagues simple appearance might become an occasion for discussion, which it his own responsibility to prevent.

Meanwhile, Fr Geoff Farrow has a piece called “pay, pray and obey,” in which he refers to news stories about Archbishop Wuerl of Washington DC.

Archbishop Wuerl with SC Justice Roberts

Archbishop Wuerl with SC Justice Roberts

The first story from the New York Times of April 1989 , dating back to 1989, tells how he was called in by Pope John Paul II to muzzle a colleague, Archbishop Hunthausen, in Seattle who was seen as having views that were too liberal – amongst others, on gay Catholics:

After criticism of the archdiocese by conservative Catholics, the Vatican named Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh, a conservative in church affairs, to share power in Seattle in 1985.

Bishop Wuerl was given control of five areas in which Archbishop Hunthausen was considered lax: ministry to homosexuals, granting of marriage annulments, clergy appointments, liturgy and moral issues of health care.

Most priests and nuns in the Seattle Archdiocese continued to support Archbishop Hunthausen, who called the power-sharing arrangement ”unworkable.”

Another story (at Huffington Post), on the apparently “unstoppable” gay marriage bill in DC includes as a footnote the well-known fierce opposition by Archbishop Wuerl.

With gay issues prominent in both stories, I thought that now might be a good time to haul out a story on Archbishop Wuerl I cam across some weeks ago, with quite a different perspective. Read the rest of this entry »

Centre & Margins: Anglican/ Episcopalian Distortions on Gay Bishops, Gay Marriage

Over the past week there have been some notable postings and responses at Bilgrimage about the margins and the centre in the church, and on attempts to control public discourse from the right. This is a powerful theme, which can stand a great deal of further analysis, and on which I have been reflecting a lot ever since.  For now, though, I just want to point out how this same pattern of misappropriating and misrepresenting decisions and history in the church has played out in the Anglican/Episcopalian Communion in much the same way.

Ever since Gene Robinson’s consecration as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, and the Episcopal Church’s decision this year to suspend the moratorium on further consecrations of gay bishops, we have become accustomed to howls of outrage (on the “right” ) and regretful cluckings (from the “centre”) about how the US Episcopalians have thrown the Anglican communion into crisis by their actions, in ignoring earlier decisions of the church and so forcing schism.  This meme has become so commonplace, it has become widely accepted without question.  There is however, one important difficulty with this story, as popularly reported:  it just isn’t true.  Gene Robinson was not the first openly gay bishop.  The departure from earlier decisions came not from the Episcopalians, but from those  opposed to the recognition of same sex partnerships.

Read the rest of this entry »

Outing the Church: Gay Popes, Gay Bishops

"A statue of a bishop or cardinal or pope strikes a particularly effeminate pose as he gazes at the sculptor while holding an open book".  Image by Holoweb

"A statue of a bishop or cardinal or pope strikes a particularly effeminate pose as he gazes at the sculptor while holding an open book". Image by Holoweb

It is widely guesstimated that gay men today represent something of the order of half of all priests. There is no reason to assume that this percentage differs dramatically in the senior ranks – indeed, there are those who claim that in the years of Paul VI and John Paul I, a gay orientation was a positive advantage in gaining papal preferment, leading to the creation of a “gay mafia” in the Vatican.  Be that as it may, whatever the proportions, it must be true that the absolute numbers of gay bishops and clergy must surely be significant.  We know of many examples from history, and there are well stories of their modern counterparts – emerging only after death, or in the aftermath of blackmail scandals.

But the numbers we know about represent only a tiny proportion of the total.  I have noted previously (“Traditional Family”  values, traditional “Family Values”) that I believe it is time to start identifying and outing those senior clergy who connive in the official oppressive church teaching, yet freely give expression to their own gay sexuality:

It is widely reported that a large and growing proportion of priests, at all levels in the hierarchy, are gay.  Others are heterosexual, but non-celibate.  Professional Vatican watchers, it is said, know not only who many of these people are, but also their partners and preferred sexual practices.  As with politicians, I would prefer that they should have the courage to come out publicly, difficult as this would be, but where they choose not to, we must respect their privacy.  But as with politicians, where they actively connive in the church’s demonization of “homosexuals”  and other sexual minorities, they should lose that right to provacy.  There have been plenty of reports of gay bishops and cardinals emerging after their deaths, or after nasty blackmail scandals – so why not when they are alive?

It is also often said that the pope’s balls are one of the three most useless things in the world.  So………come on, you professional clerical journalists:  are your cojones any more useful than His Holiness’s ?”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Homoerotic Catholic Church

That’s right:  not homophobic, but homoerotic.  Sure, there is homophobia, especially in the official teaching, but if you peer beneath the surface, scratch the veneer, lift the skirts of the priestly vestments at what lies beneath and within, you find a very different picture. It is a common observation that the most virulent homophobia often masks a closeted gay interior. This may well be the case with the institutional Catholic church: there is much in the Church’s history, institutional character, liturgical style, church decoration, and mystical tradition that is way more than just gay-friendly:  much of it is at least camp, or even frankly homoerotic.

Let us begin with the fun stuff.

In his wonderfully funny but also pointed and touching bit of memoir, “Since My Last Confession“, Scott Pomfret adopts a delightfully camp tone to describe the personnel, priestly vestments and equipment of the Mass. (In an extended metaphor, the Mass becomes a white linen restaurant, the priest is the chef, Eucharistic ministers are waiters, the chalice is the wine glass.) Read the rest of this entry »

Lutherans, Gay Clergy: Shifting Theology.

The decisions of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) this week have rightly received a lot of attention, and are clearly significant to Lutherans, and to the rest of us: but not only for the obvious reasons.

Women meeting last week at the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in Chicago wore rainbow scarves to support gay clergy members. (NY Times)

Women meeting last week at the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in Chicago wore rainbow scarves to support gay clergy members. (NY Times)

First, it is hugely important to the openly gay & lesbian partnered pastors already serving the church, and to their congregations. Read the rest of this entry »

Gay Clergy: Lutherans Join the Battle

After the Episcopalian fuss last month about gay clergy and Bishops, the battle now moves to the American Lutheran church – specifically, the branch known as the “Evangelical Lutheran Church America”.  (This is apparently the more liberal of the several branches of American Lutheranism.)

“Goodsoil, a coalition of Lutheran organizations which advocates full inclusion for gays and lesbians, will articulate its position Aug. 17-23 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) convention in Minneapolis.

Goodsoil is asking the body to pass the “Social Statement on Human Sexuality” to give greater recognition to gay and lesbian Lutherans. It is also pushing for revised ministry policies which would allow gays and lesbians in committed long-term relationships to serve as clergy.
Currently gay clergy must take a vow of celibacy.

Emily Eastwood, executive director of Lutherans Concerned/North America, is aware these are potentially very contentious issues for the church to wrestle with. Read the rest of this entry »