Queer Theology as “Radical Love”- Patrick Cheng

Gay and lesbian theology has been around as a distinctive sub-discipline of theology for several decades.  Later, Queer Theology developed with its own distinctive identity, as Stuart describes in “Gay & Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions With Critical Difference“, a book I have found immensely useful in its tracing of the development of the different branches of theology with explicit focus on the LGBT/ queer community. However, this book was published back in 2oo?  and does not offer much on queer theology specifically beyond discussing its origins, and its strengths compared with earlier approaches.

Gerald Loughlin’s “Queer Theology” is valuable for gathering together a collection of impressive monographs by a range of authors, but it seems that there has not yet been a full length, introductory text book on the subject. That is about to change, with the imminent publication of Patrick Chen’s “Radical Love”.

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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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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...

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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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Pope Benedict, on the Queer Lessons in the Church’s Martyrdom of St Joan.

At Enhanced Masculinity, I came across a post which reported on an address by Pope Benedict about the martyrdom and later canonization of St Joan of Arc. I was pleased to see this, as I have written before of the importance of Joan as a queer saint who was first martyred by the church, and later rehabilitated and honoured. Much the same will surely occur in time to those modern queer heroes who have been professionally martyred, by the Church which has deliberately destroyed their careers, for the great sin of attempting to speak the truth on sexual ethics or LGBT inclusion.

Benedict’s frank admission of the patent error of the church theologians who presided over Joan’s trial and passed sentence on her, together with his quotation from Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium on the constant need for purification, made a welcome contrast with the usual glossing over of past mistakes and the insistence on a constant and unchanging tradition. His words also immediately reminded me of the words of a much younger man, when he as Fr Joseph Ratzinger he wrote a commentary on the Second Vatican Council:

“Not everything that exists in the Church must for that reason be also a legitimate tradition…. There is a distorting tradition as well as a legitimate tradition, ….[and] …consequently tradition must not be considered only affirmatively but also critically.”

So, in addition to the significance of this address to my own arguments about the relevance of the queer saints and martyrs, it also relates to the current theological ferment on sexual ethics and widespread criticism of the institutional church. When I then crossed to the Vatican website and read the address in full, I found even more in Pope Benedict’s words that can guide and inspire gay in lesbian Catholics in our struggles to withstand the hostility of the traditional, disordered teaching on homoerotic relationships. Read the rest of this entry »

The GOP/ Evangelical Quiet Revolution on Gay Rights

The Washington Post has a useful analysis of what it calls The GOP’s quiet evolution on gay rights. This has obvious and fundamental importance for gay politics and (marriage equality in particular) in the US. It has wider significance because it is also mirrored in a parallel quiet revolution towards queer inclusion in the Christian churches – a movement that is now becoming visible in some traditionally conservative denominations, as well as the more liberal Mainline Protestants.

In the Evangelical churches, this has sometimes been seen in the emergence of some prominent straight allies speaking up for inclusion on theological grounds, or a handful of openly gay pastors and welcoming churches  – but these remain rare (for now). On the other, there are also some who do not specifically advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian Christians, but are actively promoting a greater degree of dialogue and understanding, a toning down of the rhetoric and virulent homophobia. (This is a trend that I believe to be occurring also in the Catholic and Mormon Churches). Both of these trends are welcome. One of the second group is Philip Yancey, said to be one of the world’s most successful evangelical authors:

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Gay Activists Focus on Faith: No Monopoly for the “Religious Police”

Far too often, faith and LGBT sexuality are seen as polar opposites, necessarily in opposition. The result is that some people of faith see it as their religious duty to promote prejudice or even violence and murder, with tragic results as in Uganda (but also in countless hate crime murders in Western countries, too). Conversely, too many people in the queer community simply dismiss all religious belief and practice as inherently bigoted, incapable of offering anything in their lives. Both positions are fatally flawed.

I liked this video by a young Australian gay Christian, who points out (quite correctly) that the “moral police” do not have a monopoly on faith.

In the video, he makes clear that as a gay man of faith he is vehemently opposed to “Christian political parties trying to be the moral police over the rest of society.”

“I believe it’s a very poor representation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the community, to the gay and lesbian community, to Sydney city in general, and especially to the Christian Church… the church is much bigger than them and their bigoted and limited ideas and understanding,” Grebart blasted Maddon’s actions in drumming up a “battlecry” protest against the Mardi Gras parade.

If Christians (and people of other faiths) need to treat sexual minorities with greater respect and inclusion, then the converse also holds. Gay activists need to recognize the influence that faith exerts in some people’s political thinking – and engage with religious communities on their own terms. A conference of activists in Minneapolis is doing just that:

Gay Activist Conference In Minn. Has Faith Focus

Whenever Nicole Garcia visited gay-friendly churches with large numbers of Hispanic people in the congregation, she would check the brochures and other materials geared toward gay churchgoers and their families and usually find a common theme.

“Typically what I’d see are materials written for white families and translated into Spanish,” said Garcia, a Denver-based transgender activist who works with several gay-friendly faith groups. “That’s appreciated, but you have to understand that you’re talking about a totally different set of issues in many cases.”

On Wednesday, Garcia and several hundred other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists who work within multiple faith communities will gather in Minneapolis as part of the much larger National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s annual conference. Garcia will lead a Latino working group, one of several such groups aimed at a greater diversity in gay religious activism — an arena that convention co-organizer the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel said “has been largely defined by white folks.”

In recent years, gay activists have won some major battles within several traditionally white, middle-class denominations. Both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church now allow openly gay clergy, and several other Protestant denominations have been moving in that direction.

-Read more at NPR

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