Blessed John Henry and Ambrose: Newman’s Last Sermon

The media caravanserai has moved on, but Cardinal John Henry Newman is now and will remain known as Blessed John Henry. He remains also a significant, if complex, figure for gay and lesbian Catholics in his relationship with his beloved Ambrose St John, and in his theology for progressive Catholics more generally. The theology is subtle, and has been too easily misappropriated by people on both sides of the Church ideological divide. I do not (yet) want to enter that territory. About the relationship with Ambrose, I feel more secure.

 

Inscription for a grave in which both John Henry and Ambrose were buried.

Alan Bray (“The Friend “) has written extensively about this relationship, showing how it fits into an ancient tradition of close, even passionate friendship between male couples in the Church: Read the rest of this entry »

Gay Marriage: Coming (Soon?) to a Church Near You.

It is now widely recognized that the move to marriage equality is irreversible. From polling evidence, the trend is clear. Politically, candidates for office are increasingly recognizing the dangers of homophobic rhetoric, and some are starting to see the value of declaring openly for equality. Courts are ruling that discrimination, in marriage law, in military service, and in adoption law, is plainly unconstitutional. As some US states and countries of Europe, Latin America and elsewhere move towards recognizing queer families, the greater visibility that follows erodes resistance easing the path to equality for those that follow.

All this is well known – for civil marriage. What is less widely recognized is the extent of change that has also been taking place in the churches. Inevitably, this will lead in time to acceptance also for same-sex church weddings. From the position just a few years ago where almost all major denominations were strongly against homosexual relationships, and public condemnations passed without comment, this claim may seem hard to swallow, so let us review the evidence.

 

Same-sex Wedding, First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco

Read the rest of this entry »

The “Abominations” of the King James Bible.

Scripture has been so commonly quoted in support of arguments against same sex relationships, that we too easily overlook the simple facts that the texts being quoted were written in  a foreign language, in a remote cultural setting, in contexts very different to that in which pseudo-religious bigots abuse these texts today. To extend correct understanding of these texts, every useful explanation deserves wide exposure.

Abomination

At Religion Dispatches today, Jay Michaelson  has an explanation of one particularly treacherous and widely abused and misunderstood word, “abomination”.   Critics of the clobber texts routinely point out that the same word is used to proscribe certain foods, shaving, as well as “men lying with men”, and the inconsistency exposed in its modern use to attack  selectively one but not the others. Outside the scholarly journals however, not enough attention has been placed on the word itself, which emphatically does not have the connotations and strength of meaning in the original Hebrew text that it does in the modern English usage of its translation. (Renato Lings, meanwhile, has offered a useful analysis of the Levitical texts from another perspective, the words for “men lying with men”, and also finds that they simply do not mean what modern abusers of the texts think it means).

Read the rest of this entry »

The Shower of Stoles Project.

As battles rage in many denominations over the ordination of gay, lesbian or trans pastors, or (the Catholic Church) even over their admission to seminaries, we too easily forget that gay men and women have been active in ministry from the very beginnings of Christianity. In recent centuries, public hostility has meant that the millions of such GLBT pastors have found it politic to remain discreet and closeted, but over the last half century, that has changed: more and more people are declaring on the side of honesty.

In some denominations and local congregations (thankfully, an expanding number), people have found that they are able to declare and continue to serve. In others, simple honesty has led to exclusion, to great personal trauma and suffering. Read the rest of this entry »