Un-Catholic at Pride: Protest the Pope, or Ignore Him?

While walking down Oxford Street with other gay/lesbian Catholics, I suddenly found myself faced with a BBC television camera and reporter. “What,” she asked, “do you think of the pope’s UK visit?”

This has become highly topical, and highly emotional here. Even today, there are some permanent tensions which have their background in the historical development of the Anglican church, and the subsequent suppression of the Catholic faith, when Catholicism was seen as a form of treason (and incidentally, lumped  together with heresy and sodomy as the greatest of sins against religion. Today, traces of the legal restrictions remain in the unequal status of the “established” Anglican church and the others, while deep suspicion lingers in some quarters about the Catholic (and other) faith schools, about the regular interventions by Catholic bishops in political debates on abortion legislation,  civil partnerships / gay marriage, gay adoption rights, and most recently about the successful attempts to thwart parts of recent equality legislation intended to prevent discrimination by church employers. The stories of clerical abuse and inadequate church response over the past year have simply added to the hostility of a small anti-Catholic minority, and a wider anti-papal/ anti-Vatican feeling of some others (including many progressive Catholics). What has really added fuel to the fire, is that this is to be treated as a state visit, with substantial cost to the British taxpayer, at a time when the new government is announcing plans to slash expenditure across a wide front. No wonder some people are angry.

This particularly includes the LGBT community, and so there was a strong anti-papal presence at the London Pride parade, with a banner, and leaflet distributors. The reporter in front of me was clearly preparing a program not on Gay Pride specifically, but a broader current affairs program on the papal visit, with gay and gay Catholic reactions just one element. Read the rest of this entry »

London Pride, PCUSA Assembly

I’m on my way into London for Gay Pride. As I walk down Oxford Street and Regent Street towards Trafalgar Square, part of my thoughts will be elsewhere, with the US Presbyterians, who have already announced that they are ready to celebrate progress towards LGBT equality, even before the crucial decisions to be taken by the Assembly, which starts today. They have reason to celebrate: while there is much to do still, there has been clear measurable progress already. The signs are good: National Assembly has already voted (last year) to approve ordination of gay and lesbian pastors. Only the failure to secure ratification from enough local congregations has prevented the decision taking full effect. This year is likely to see the proposal pass with a wider margin, and activists are continuing to gain further support at local level. Queer Presbyterians will also be encouraged by the venue – the same hall where the Lutherans tool their own ground-breaking decisions last year.

This report from Ekklesia has more:

Presbyterian advocates of equality for all members of the church, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT), are announcing they are ready to celebrate continuing progress at the upcoming General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) which takes place from July 3–10, in Minneapolis.

“We have come so far toward fully including everyone in the denomination, we have reason to celebrate, even as we work for fuller inclusion. As we move forward, we will continue to lift up our core belief that we are all created in the image of God. We know that the church is living into a future that allows Presbyterians to follow their God-led consciences as they consider each candidate, rather than requiring exclusion,” said the Rev Tricia Dykers Koenig, National Organiser of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians.

As the denomination gathers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, many are aware that in the same hall, one year earlier, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American voted to allow ministers in partnered same-sex couples to be listed on the official roster and to serve the church. All requirements to limit participation were dropped and Lutherans are living into the new policies by receiving clergy back into the church.

Lisa Larges, head of That All May Freely Serve, said, “Faith traditions are moving toward a new understanding of God’s diverse creation. The time for policies based on our love of God and call to serve has come. Churches are learning to affirm gifts for ministry rather than reject ministers because of whom they chose as a life partner.”

Out in the Forces: UK Version

Over the last year or so there have been many notable anniversaries of landmarks on the way to LGBT equality: 40 since Stonewall (June last year), 40 years since the first gay liberation march (June this year); 20 years since the first civil unions in Denmark (last year),10 years for those in Vermont (June this year), 5 years for the first full marriages in Massachusetts. Here’s one that passed me by – possibly because it’s more difficult to pin it down to a specific date in th year, possibly because it will have been missed by the American media that so dominate our news cycle.

2010 marks ten years of openly gay and lesbian members serving in the British armed forces. Read the rest of this entry »

Faith at Pride, London Version.

The “Pride Month” of June is almost over, but Pride continues regardless. As always, London pride will be in July, not June – this Saturday, July 3rd. As always, there will be a range of faith -based groups participating. There will be two Catholic groups formally joining the march, supported by individuals from the Soho Masses – which will be formally represented by an information table at Trafalgar Square. I am certain that there will be numerous other faith -based groups too.

In addition to the individual denominations, the LGCM (Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement) is co-ordinating a visible, combined presence by promoting these t-shirts:

From Ekklesia:

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Christians are planning an organised and visible presence at the upcoming Pride march through the streets of London this weekend. Read the rest of this entry »