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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Vatican Meltdown*

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

James Alison: Discovery of “Gay” = Good News For the Church *

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

“The Holy Spirit Moves Through All: All Must Be Consulted.”

What do you think has happened to the spirit of Vatican II?  Depending on your personal view of the value of the Council, most assessments appear to either lament the rolling back of the reforms by the revisionist JP II and Benedict XVI; or to rejoice in the return to the authentic tradition before that prevailed before the supposed errors of the reformists. Ted Schmidt, editor of the Canadian “New Catholic Times sensus fidelium” has a much more encouraging view.

The Canadian church is still recovering from the shock of Bishop Leahy, who resigned suddenly after being charged with possession of child pornography. It was in the light of this scandal that Schmidt conducted a series of interviews with Canadian bishops, then shared his reflections on what these said about the state of the Canadian Catholic Church. His observations, though, are applicable to the whole church, not just to Canada.  I share here some extracts – the full article is available at   New Catholic Times sensus fidelium

Knowing many of these fine men I say without fear of contradiction that presently they seem to have missed a fundamental truth of modern ecclesiology, the teaching on the sensus fidelium, that the Spirit is given to the entire church and not an ordained rump of clerical celibates. They are so fixated on the idea that they are “the teachers” that they have forgotten that they must first be the listeners and learners.

That sounds familiar, but it is what follows that is important: Read the rest of this entry »

Church & Laity: More on the Sensus Fidelium

Michael Bayley at the Wild Reed has already noted how his post on Richard Sipe, with his observations about sexuality and the sensus fidelium, has provoked widespread comment. I want to elaborate now on why this should have been so, and why it is important – and also to address some of the confusion in that comment.

Sipe’s observations were just a few comments extracted from a longer article on the coming reformation of the church: “Sexuality Sets Stage for Church’s Next Reformation, Expert Predicts.” (Arthur Jones, NCR January 2003). Let us not forget this context.  Many other observers have commented on the same idea, not as something to be desired, but as an imminent event. The challenge then, is to identify the ways in which we can accelerate and participate in this Kairos moment. But before venturing into the bigger picture, we must consider the specific points covered in the original Wild Reed post, and the subsequent discussion.

In the short extract posted, Sipe notes that there is a sharp divergence in thinking between the hierarchy and the laity on matters of sexuality, and goes on to remind us that in terms of traditional teaching on the sensus fidelium (SF), a teaching which does not carry with it the support of the faithful as a whole, lacks authority. It was this observation in particular that produced most of the vigorous discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

Synchronicity: Thinking (and Speaking) Together

I wrote a couple of days ago how about how closely Richard Sipe’s comments (quoted at the Wild Reed) on sexuality and the church, on the sensus fidelium, and the hierarchy, so closely matched the conclusions I was reaching myself.  What I didn’t know at the time,  was that William Lindsey posted a comment at the Wild Reed immediately after my own with almost identical thoughts on the comments thread. Bill, like me, also wrote about this in his own blog, drawing attention to the “synchronicity” involved:  Colleen Kochivar – Baker too had been writing along similar lines. Since then, Bill has written again about the synchronicities involved.

“Synchronicity” is a word I have been using a lot lately, especially in private correspondence with Bill Lindsey.  There have been several occasions where one or other of us have been wanting to write on a particular topic, but have been slow to do so:  then found the other has written something  almost identical.  As illustration, the story of the South African athlete is one example.  As a South African travelling in that country as the news broke of rumoured gender test results, I was thinking of writing, but stalled as I wondered if it was strictly relevant to this blog .  No sooner had I decided to put something together, than I found that Bill had written a post with almost identical thoughts to my own, so I left the topic alone, except for a comment at Bilgrimage.   There have also been other examples.

“Synchronicity” is a word carefully chosen, in clear distinction to “co-incidence”.  In strictly temporal terms, they mean much the same thing, but “co-incidence” implies an occurrence due purely to chance.  “Synchronicity” has no such connotation, and suggests instead at least the possibility of some linking causality- such as (perhaps) the influence of the Holy Spirit. Read the rest of this entry »

“Sex As God Intended” (Book Review)

sex-as-god-intended-_-john-mcneillJohn McNeill, Lethe Press 2008.

I have just two small niggles about this book, so let me get them out of the way now. First, I was initally disappointed to find that this is not all new wrting by McNeill.  Only half the book is by McNeill, and the rest is a collection of celebratory articles, a “Festchrift”, by others. This Festschrift is welcome, but even his own writing is not all new.  I have not read all the previous works, but even so I recognised large chunks of the material as not just a restatement, but verbatim reprints, of  sections of  “Taking a Chance of God.” So big chunks of this are not new material.

Also irritating was the poor editing.  McNeill appears to have gone to a new publisher, who have clearly made good use of a spell-checker – but paid insufficient attention to grammar.  There were many instances  where the flow of the text was interrupted by obvious missing words, with important parts of speech simply not present, leading to incomplete sentences or clauses that just did not hang together.

Celebrating John McNeill

But these were irritations only.  It does not matter Read the rest of this entry »

My Anti-Vatican Self-Defence Routine.

Whenever, as now, I find myself getting worked up about the Vatican, I find it helps to recall the wisdom of some of the wise friends and writers who have helped to shape my thinking.

For me, my Vatican recovery began a very few words from a very human Jesuit in Johannesburg (now in Cape Town, lucky man), who simply asked why was I fussing about “Vatican bureaucrats”, when the church was so much bigger than they.

Mark Jordan’s book is always a tonic.  It cautions against trying to debate with the Vatican – showing how their rhetorical style is based not on rational argument, but on simple repetition of old statements, until the opposition is silence-of-sodom1bludgeoned into submission.  He also shows up at length the internal contradictions in an institution which is internally irremediably camp and infused with a gay sensibility, yet is nominally vigorously opposed to ‘homosexuality’.  After reading Jordan’s thesis, it is hard to take the bureaucrats quite as seriously again.

Richard Cleaver takes a different tack.  Starting from the perspective of Liberation Theology, he reminds us that know-my-namerevelation is not something that ended in Biblical times, but continues through to our own age.  We can all participate in discerning this revelation  by using prayer and reflection to discern the action of the Holy Spirit  in our lives and experience. The starting point in liberation theology sounds controversial to some, but the basic point is not – I was strongly moved by the same argument in Dick Weston’s Redemptive Intimacy. Benedict XVI himself said something similar in his Christmas address to the Curia – sadly overlooked by much more newsworthy, because controversial, remarks on gender and climate change.

sex-and-sacredDaniel Helminiak, in “Sex and the Sacred”, concentrates on the importance of developing a spiritual life, and shows how a unique take on spirituality is one of the gifts of being gay.  (Among other things, coming out is itself a spiritual experience).

mcneill3But above all, at present, I turn to the writings of John McNeill.  Infused with the Ignatian Spirituality of the Jesuits, McNeill constantly reminds us that “The glory of God is humans fully alive” (St Irenaus), and that bad theology is bad psychology – and vice versa.   He too argues  for the spiritual life, developed with the Holy Spirit, to confer the wisdom that we are not getting from the Vatican.  but he goes further than Helminiak, arguing strongly that the church needs collectively to arm itself with the grace of the Holy Spirit against a sterile, power-hungry Vatican bureaucracy.

Increasingly, I believe he is right.

“Yes, We Can!”

Today, we congratulate the US on the inauguration of Barack Obama, the culmination of an extraordinary story of the triumph of hope.

When he first emerged on the national stage at the Democratic convention in 2004, he was just a little known state senator from Illinois.  he impressed with his convention speech, and several commentators noted that he could be a good presidential candidate in years to come – but few could have expected Read the rest of this entry »

In the Bleak Midwinter: An Epiphany Reflection on Benedict.

As a Jo’burg boytjie, I prefer warmer climes and do NOT enjoy the current freeze here in Surrey – temperatures are at the lowest in 20 years, and approaching -10C.   Even back in Joey’s, I did not appreciate the then much milder winters, so used to console myself every winter by looking for encouraging signs of Spring, Read the rest of this entry »