Category Archives: Sexuality and gender

European Forum – LGBT Youth Conference

The annual conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, held last week outside Rome, featured a strong presence by LGBT youth, in preparation for the Catholic Bishops’ Synod Assembly to be held in Rome later this year. Here follows a press release from the Forum:

“Hopes and expectations of young LGBT people towards the Youth Synod”

The 37th Annual Conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, organised by Cammini di Speranza and REFO (Evangelical Network Faith and Homosexuality), took place in Albano Laziale, near Rome, 9 to 13 May 2018. On 12 May, the Conference included an event specifically for young LGBT+ people to provide input to the Youth Synod organised by the Roman Catholic Church, to find possible ways to reach a state of inclusive pastoral care.

An international gathering

LGBT+ young people from over 25 European countries gathered in Albano Laziale (RM) to discuss their wishes and hopes regarding the ability of Christian churches to welcome them and enhance their contributions, at the Annual Conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, organised in partnership with Cammini di Speranza and REFO (Evangelical Faith and Homosexuality Network).

A public conference on Saturday 12 May, in the Aula Magna of the Waldensian Faculty of Theology in Rome, provided suggestions for understanding both the mood of young LGBT+ Christians and the possibility of a more open approach to pastoral care.

Fr James Martin addresses conference

Among the keynote speakers, the Jesuit Father James Martin, author of the recent “Building a Bridge” on LGBT Christians, presented by video his vision of inclusive pastoral care:

 

“Many young people tell me how rejected they feel from the church and also how difficult it is for them to enter into a relationship with God. The religious rejection that they feel from their families moves them into the streets sometimes. At least in the US, LGBT youth are five times more likely to consider committing suicide than their straight counterparts. We can say that this is really a life issue for the church.”

He continued with three messages to LGBT young people: “1) God loves you; 2) Jesus cares for you, especially when you feel at the margins; 3) The Church is your home.”

Positive stories of inclusive pastoral care

Other speakers spoke of their own experiences: the path towards inclusion of LGBT+ people proposed by Marco Agricola, of the Italian Evangelical Youth Federation, the story of the experience of a Christian mother of an LGBT boy, offered by Dea Santonico of the base community of  S. Paul of Rome, and the voices of some of the protagonists of the conference: the young LGBT+ Christians themselves. They shared their own experiences of inclusive pastoral care already in place in different communities in Italy, Spain, Germany and France.

In the end they expressed their hopes and expectations for an inclusive church: “We would like to fully affirm our attachment towards our Church founded on the body of Christ. This originates from our Roman Catholic upbringing and later on made decisions of being an active part in our Church’s future in a spirit of growing hope and faith.”

The young LGBT+ Christian people are offering to us a new vision of a Church which gives space to them and their families, developing inclusive pastoral care, challenging LGBTIQ*-phobic attitudes and comments inside and outside the Church, creating reinforcing the dialogue between the Church itself and Christian LGBTIQ* people.

“Towards Welcoming and Affirming Christian Communities”

European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups: Conference 2019

 

Last week I spent a few days in the Albano hills outside Rome, at the 2018 annual conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian groups. As always, I found it useful to meet up once again with others to exchange views and news of our activities, but also found the actual content and worship stimulating, inspiring, and spiritually nourishing.  As always, there was much that deserves reporting and comment, but this cannot be done adequately in a single post. For now, I offer just some highlights.

Participants at conference 2018

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Global Rainbow Catholics Condemn LGBT Criminalisation

Under the biblical motto “Hear a Just Cause” (Psalm 17,1), almost 100 Rainbow Catholics from 35 countries gathered in Munich-Dachau from November 30th to December 3rd, 2017, in order to develop a common agenda for the future.

A special focus of the assembly was on the African region,  where legal criminalisation in some countries and social persecution in others lead to conditions where LGBTIQ people in many African countries are endangered in their everyday lives. One of several working groups convened during the assembly focused specifically on this issue of criminalisation.





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Gender Reality and “Ideological Colonialism”

Today is “Transgender Day of Remembrance”, a day when in particular, we remember those who have lost their lives to transphobic violence. (New Ways Ministry notes in their post, that around the world, there have been 350 such murders recorded in the last year alone. That’s almost one a day – and does not include those unrecorded, or not recognised as transphobic).

St Joan of Arc, cross-dressing martyr

In addition to the human tragedy inherent in each and every one of these deaths, for the Christian churches, and the Catholic churches in particular, there’s a particular religious tragedy, which erases the transgender elements in church history, and distorts the understanding of gender in theology, and in the world.

The most notable example from church history is obviously St Joan of Arc, condemned  by the church authorities as a heretic  and executed in part for her practice of dressing and behaving as a man, in contravention of standard gender roles. Later, the church re-evaluated her, and recognised her as a saint and martyr. It is notable that Pope Benedict once discussed this, as an illustration of the distorting tradition in church history, and how there have been times when the theologians and cardinals of the church, can be wrong.




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School Visit for “Anti-bullying week”

If ever we needed a demonstration of why we need an anti-bullying week, we got it this week, with the hostile reaction in some quarters to the entirely sensible guidelines issued to church schools by the Church of England.

Yesterday, I made my own contribution against bullying, speaking to students of Lord Wandsworth College, Hampshire. I was originally invited to the school as a Stonewall LGBT role model,  but with a full 50 minute time slot to fill, and as it is anti-bullying week, it made sense to expand the brief.  I began with a simple, brief outline of my personal story, which sets the background to my particular passions, and that led fairly naturally into a discussion of bullying: homophobic, transphobic (which is getting a lot more attention, currently) – and biphobic – which is still too often overlooked.

How did it go? I thought very well – apart from some minor technical glitches. It looked to me like just about all the 250 students stayed attentive right through the full twenty minutes. I was particularly pleased at the end, when two beaming pupils came up to thank me most profusely. The staff member involved seemed satisfied, so I came home feeling I’d had a constructive day.

Here follows a summary of my presentation, together with a selection of the slides used.

(The full presentation, together with the planned  text, will follow).



Continue reading School Visit for “Anti-bullying week”

LGBT Catholics, Working for Change

At the end of this month, I will join LGBT Catholics and their parents in Munich for  conference of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics. This follows an earlier gathering in Rome, 2015, where we appointed  a steering committee to formally set up the legal and procedural framework for a permanent body.  The forthcoming conference will approve the statutes, and begin the serious work of expanding pastoral care for LGBT Catholics, extending dialogue and advocacy work with Catholic bishops, and countering church support for legal sanctions against LGBT people.

The German theologian Michael Brinkschroder has, for the past two years, been one of the two co-presidents of the steering committee. In this article published on the GNRC website, he discusses his experience of being both gay and Catholic, as well as his hopes for the GNRC.

The Catholic theologian, sociologist (PhD) and religious education teacher Michael Brinkschröder is gay. Instead of turning his back on the church, he is fighting for acceptance and equality for gays and lesbians in the Roman Catholic Church.




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Fr James Martin, on “Building a Bridge”

After the publication of his book “Building a Bridge” (between the Catholic Church and LGBT Catholics), Fr James Martin has received some vociferous opposition from certain quarters – leading to the highly publicised cancellation of a few previously scheduled lectures.

Much more important though, is the less well-publicised heavy schedule he has had, addressing well-attended meetings around the country which have not been cancelled, in parishes schools and colleges.  Here’s Fr. Martin on building a bridge,  during a large scale breakout session at the Ignatian Family Teach-In 2017 in Washington D.C.

Yet another study finds kids with same-sex parents do just as well as those with straight parents

Kids with same-sex parents are doing just fine, according to a new study.

In news shocking no one but homophobes, the study analyzed data from the American National Health Interview Survey from 2013 to 2015 and proved kids with same-sex parents do just as well as kids with straight parents.

The researchers looked at data for around 21,000 children between the ages of 4 and 17. The survey analyzed the emotional, mental and psychological health of both children and parents.

It’s the latest research in a flood of previous studies proving same-sex parents are just as qualified in raising kids. In fact, some studies suggest they’re even better.

Source: Gay Star News

Coming Out –  to Parents

Coming out can be scary – especially to parents in a religious family

I found it possible, only because I knew that the nature of my family, was that we took it for granted that we would stick together, no matter what (I’d already seen this, with a couple of younger siblings). I had no real fear of rejection. Also, I was already in my 30’s, after a patently unsuccessful (opposite-sex) marriage. There was no way that my parents could suggest that for me, being gay was “just a phase”. So, for me, coming out in the end was no big deal – but even so, the prospect was  scary.

Of course, the reason it didn’t happen until my 30’s, was that  earlier, I had simply bottled it. I have a very vivid memory of walking home from university one day, thinking about an obviously gay couple on campus, and reflecting on how good it would be to be settled in a nice home with a loving manI – and how impossible to admit to that, in my Catholic family.

Instead, I simply avoided the problem. I refused to confront or deal with the truth of my natural orientation, and entered instead into what turned out to be a completely inappropriate, ultimately destructive marriage. Others who have avoided coming out to family, have made other destructive choices: leaving home, or even suicide.

The healthy thing to do, while young or later, is to embrace the old biblical adage, “the truth will set you free” – and come out to parents. But, as stated up front at the beginning of this post, that’s not easy – especially when young. That’s why a post by Susan Cottrell, at Freed Hears, is so welcome. She is the mother of not one, but two gay children, and regularly dispenses sound advice to LGBT Christian families.

Here’s a summary of the four steps she recommends for LGBT kids contemplating coming out to parents. (Read the full post at  Freed Hearts)

How To Prepare for the Potential Hurricane of Coming Out!

  1. Take Care of You.
  • Make a plan. If you’re in a position of risk—you’re still living at home, or your parents are paying for your college—then consider that carefully. It can be soul crushing to wait until you’re beyond your parents’ support before you come out, so you have to weigh the risk.
    1. Take Care of Your Family.
    • Give them some time. Because here’s the deal: they did not go through all the preparation that you did, so their heads may be spinning. They’re afraid: for you, for them, and for what this might mean. They’re likely to be running the program the culture or the church has installed in them. They don’t yet understand God’s full love and inclusion. If you can stay calm—even if they’re not—it will help you… and them.
    1. Recognize that your parents’ response reveals them, not you.
  • In other words, if they say terrible things to you, hateful, vicious words, that is because that is their worldview, NOT because you deserve it.
  • Remember the Truth About You! No matter how your family reacts, they do love you. They just may be so clouded with fear that they’ve lost sight of that. But it’s still true.

Read more at Patheos – Freed Hearts

Oz Priest, on the Christian Case for Gay Marriage

“Fr Dave” is yet another Australian arguing strongly in favour of legal recognition. His argument is that it the Christian thing to do: same sex marriage, like any other, contributes broadly to social stability, and provides a stable environment for raising children. (For those who dispute this on the grounds that children need a mother and a father, see the observation by cartoonist David Horsey, at Seattle PI:

Today, a couple of inebriated knuckleheads who happen to be boy and girl can impulsively get hitched any day of the week at a chapel in Las Vegas. A straight man or woman who has repeatedly failed at marriage can try, try again. The moral fiber of America will only be enhanced when two men or two women who have faithfully shared their lives for decades are finally allowed to do the same.

But back to Fr Dave, in Australia:

Why every Christian should be in favour of gay marriage.

Yes, I’m serious.

Yes, I realise that the majority of the world’s Christians are opposed to gay marriage and I recognise that many of those who most vocally oppose gay marriage do so in the name of Christ. Even so, this misunderstanding is easily resolved.

For Christians understand that marriage is an institution with a purpose. Others may believe that it was just a good idea that our forebears came up with on a lonely night, or that it evolved mystically out of our apparent need for soul-mates, but Christians believe that marriage is a God-given institution, designed to serve the good of the community, and this gives us a very straightforward way of assessing the validity of any proposed form of marriage.

Let’s be clear about this: from a Christian point of view, marriage is an institution designed to serve two social needs:

  1. marriage contributes broadly to social stability; and
  2. marriage provides a stable environment for the nurturing of children.

This may seem all very unromantic (as is the case with so much “biblical” thinking) but, in truth, I can’t see many people outside of the self-obsessed, chakra-balancing spiritualist fringe – Christian or otherwise – seriously contesting this, and a brief look at history confirms that it is the social purpose of marriage that is at the core of the institution.

The biblical record, certainly, is unambiguous in this regard. Sometimes marriage was monogamous while at other times multiple partners were involved. Sometimes marriages were arranged and at other times people were free to choose partners for themselves. The form of the institution varied, but the God-given role that marriage plays in the community has remained constant – increasing social stability and providing a safe environment for the nurturing of children.

If this is the case then the only questions Christians need to concern themselves with when it comes to the issue of gay marriage are these two:

  1. Would gay marriage lead to greater social stability?
  2. Would a married gay partnership be likely to provide a more secure environment for the nurturing of the children of a gay couple than an unmarried one?

I think the answer to both these questions has to be “yes”. If marriage entails faithfulness and long-term partnership, then allowing gay persons to marry will have to contribute something in both of these areas, even if the success rate of gay marriages turns out to be as dismal as heterosexual ones.

Now I appreciate that any number of Christian people will object at this point with words like “abomination” and “unnatural” – claiming that the Bible teaches clearly that all homosexual activity (including that between consenting adults) is an obscenity before God. My contention at this point is simply that even if this were true it wouldn’t detract from the value of gay marriage. For the issue here is not whether homosexual activity is desirable or undesirable or morally offensive or anything of the sort. The only questions that should concern Christian people are these two:

  1. Will this form of marriage serve social stability?
  2. Will it make things better or worse for the children involved?

If the answer to these two questions is positive then we Christians have no basis for objecting to gay people having access to the institution of marriage, regardless of how some of us might feel about such people and regardless of whether we judge such persons to be immoral or otherwise.

Personally I think we Christians need to get over what is going on in other people’s bedrooms, but if we are going to make pronouncements on what we deem best for the community, let’s do so on the basis of rational argument and biblical principle.

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