Those Evangelical Allies, Again.

The word “evangelical” is a troublesome one in religious discourse, as it can mean so many different things, and is used indifferent ways.   Polling firms reporting on social policy issues routinely use it as a contrast to Protestants, as in Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals – by which they really men Mainline Protestants and Other Protestants. Press releases though have never been given to verbal precision, and we have become accustomed to the usage. To complicate matters further, some of the “Mainline” churches, especially the UK Church of England, are described in news reports in terms of their “evangelical” or “liberal wing. In more theological, less politicized terms, there are many in the Mainline churches who would insist that they too are inherently “evangelical”,  in its true sense.

Further complicating the issue is the repeated research finding that it is the “evangelical” wing of Christianity, in the sense of non-mainline Protestant, that is the most implacably opposed to LGBT equality or inclusion in church, which leads to the assumption that one leads necessarily from the other. There is growing evidence though that even in this sense, some evangelical leaders, like many Catholic theologians, are now recognising the fallacies and mistaken assumptions in the Christian opposition of the past few centuries. I have reported on some of these in the past – there are many more.

However, it is the more theological meaning of “evangelical” that Janet Edwards is using when she argues at “Religion Dispatches ” that gay rights  are an “evangelical thing”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Presbyterians Approve Gay Clergy.

To balance the disappointment over Jeffrey John in the UK Anglican church, US Presbyterians have voted to approve the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy without any expectation of celibacy. This is not quite the breakthrough it might seem – the General Assembly has voted the same way before, but failed to get ratification at local level.

This year the chances are better, with a strongly supportive new Moderator, who has said that inclusion is a matter of simple justice and a Gospel imperative.

Here’s the introduction and a link to the report from AP. I will have more later.

Presbyterian leaders approve gay clergy policy

MINNEAPOLIS — Presbyterian leaders voted Thursday to allow non-celibate gays in committed relationships to serve as clergy, approving the first of two policy changes that could make their church one of the most gay-friendly major Christian denominations in the U.S.

But the vote isn’t a final stamp of approval for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) or its more than 2 million members.

Delegates voted during the church’s general assembly in Minneapolis, with 53 percent approving the more liberal policy on gay clergy. A separate vote is expected later Thursday on whether to change the church’s definition of marriage from between “a man and a woman” to between “two people.”

(Read the full report)

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 »

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.”