Category Archives: Marriage / family

Baptist Church Approves Gay Marriage

A few months ago, a Georgia Baptist church voted overwhelmingly to approve  allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies in the church. That’s right: a Baptist church,in a southern state of the USA.  The Macon Telegraph reported:

Members of First Baptist Church of Christ, one of Macon’s oldest churches, on Sunday overwhelmingly approved allowing same-sex marriage ceremonies in the church.

The Rev. Scott Dickison, the church’s pastor, said the resolution passed with 73 percent voting in favor. About 230 members voted by secret ballot in a conference following the regular Sunday service. Dickison said that was about the typical size of the congregation on Sunday.

“I’m grateful for the congregation traveling together to this point, and it is an important point but it comes with some tenderness,” he said. “We will continue to heal together as we move forward.”

Yet this is not by any means unique. As marriage equality continues to advance around the world, churches everywhere are having to face up to the implications for their own congregations – and many that were once implacably opposed, are finding that they can indeed live with the new reality – or even embrace it.

For the First Baptist Church in Macon, the decision came after a long process of reflection and discernment, which began five years ago, with discussions about the Christian ethics of homosexuality.  Their decision was a strictly local one, which is the way the Baptists operate.  In the same way, somewhat counterintuitively, it was a Baptist congregation that was the first church in the UK to host a gay wedding service.

More importantly, this decision did not come in a vacuum. A year previously, the congregation had undergone an exhaustive process to clarify their essential mission and charism, as followers of Christ. The decision to approve gay marriage, in church, followed logically from their conclusions. From their website:




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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.

Related articles

 

The Joy of (LGBT) Family

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation is called “Amoris Laetitia” – The Joy of Love. Written in response to the 2014/15 Bishops Synods’ Assemblies,  it’s not really about love specifically, but about the wider issue of marriage and family, their joys, difficulties and challenges they face – which had been the theme of the assemblies. This is why, to the surprise and disappointment of many LGBT Catholics, there was little attention, in either the assemblies or in Amoris, to the subject of homosexuality – except with reference to families having LGBT people within them.

Seen at Newcastle Pride. (By Ardfern – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41669780)





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Cardinal Wuerl: Married Gay Catholics “Not a Great Problem”

While Pope Francis and several leading cardinals have shown a welcome emphasis on pastoral accompaniment for LGBT Catholics and others in unconventional situations, it is disgraceful that others continue to insist on legalistic excuses for exclusion. The appalling directive in Madison diocese about church funerals for married lesbian or gay Catholics, and the recent firing of yet another teacher at a Catholic school not because she is gay, but because it became she was about to marry, are just the most recent examples of this.

Yet these practices, far from upholding Catholic teaching, are in fact contravening it.  As Fr James Martin SJ has repeatedly pointed out, it is unreasonable to claim that such sanctions are required because people are acting in conflict with Catholic doctrines, when they do not apply equivalent sanctions to people acting in conflict with other Catholic doctrines. This selective treatment is plainly discriminatory, and directly contradicts the Catechism requirement to treat lesbian and gay Catholics with “respect, compassion and sensitivity” – and also the directive against unjust discrimination.

This point was made very clearly four years ago, even before the more pastoral tone introduced to the church by Pope Francis, by Cardinal Wuerl of Washington. I reproduce below a post from my archives, originally written in April 2013, as pressure for marriage equality was building across the USA – and some bishops were fiercely resisting.

***********

It’s been obvious for a long time that as equal marriage becomes increasingly inevitable, as ordinary Catholics show their direct support for all Catholic relationships and families without discrimination on sexual or gender grounds, the bishops will be forced to consider ways to respond to the changing realities on the ground.  Cardinal Dolan’s admission that the Church needs to be more supportive of gay and lesbian Catholics but doesn’t know how, has drawn widespread commentary. Somewhat slipping under the radar, even though it does point to part at least of a workable response, is this, from Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Cardinal Wuerl – Wikipedia

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the cardinal archbishop of Washington, explained Sunday that gay Catholics who marry their partners may remain part of the Catholic Church even though the church will not recognize their marriage. In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Wuerl explained this is similar to how the church treats Catholics who are divorced and remarried.

“We do that same thing with people who are married, divorced and remarried,” Wuerl said on the church’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages. “We say, you know, you’re still part of the family, but we can’t recognize that second marriage… and it’s never been a great problem.

– Talking Points Memo

(emphasis added)

The high profile campaigns by bishops and their orthotoxic camp followers against gay marriage, and the extensive publicity to the language used about homosexuality, especially the description as an “intrinsically disordered” condition, leads many of us to assume that Catholic doctrine is especially discriminatory towards us. In fact, this is not so. In its insistence that every genital sexual act must be open to procreation, Catholic doctrine on sexual matters is equally disordered, to all.

The problem comes in the application, in pastoral practice. Although the Catechism and other documents are clear that artificial contraception within marriage, sexual relationships before marriage or after divorce and masturbation are all considered “grave sins”, “intrinsically disordered”, or “great evils”, in practice in most parishes there is a great deal of pastoral sensitivity displayed on these matters. For some reason, it is specifically same – sex relationships that arouse the ire of the Catholic right, who may not approve of other sexual transgressions, manage to bite their tongues and refrain from judging those who trangress, or the priests who welcome them in their parishes.

So, Cardinal Wuerl’s recognition that married gay Catholics are in a position no different to those who have remarried after divorce, “and it’s never been a great problem”, is a helpful step forward. It’s not been a great problem not because the documents approve, but because in most parishes, the formal rules are ignored, and a more sensitive, pastoral welcome applies instead. I hope that married gay and lesbian Catholics will take Cardinal Wuerl at his word, and take their places in Catholic parishes alongside other married couples – and expect the equal treatment, without encountering “great problems”, that the Cardinal has given them grounds to expect.

Oppose Catholic Employment Discrimination

In North Carolina, a Catholic bishop is arguing in court that the church must have a fundamental right to fire LGBT Catholic employees who exercise their legal right to marry.

Lonnie Billard, left, with husband Richard Donham (pic – New Ways Ministry)

A bishop has claimed that the diocese over which he presides would be “irreparably damaged” if it is unable to fire church workers at will.

Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, North Carolina, made his remarks while being deposed in the federal workplace discrimination court case of Lonnie Billard, who was fired from Charlotte Catholic High School in 2014 when his engagement to a man became public.

Jugis said in the deposition that continuing to employ church workers who advocate against or violate “fundamental moral tenets” of church teaching would be a cause for “scandal.”

-New Ways Ministry

What is truly scandalous, is when church bishops ignore both the Gospels’ clear message of inclusion for all, and the Church’s own teaching on the primacy of conscience and the importance of social justice – including employment justice.


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Inclusive Study Material for World Meeting of Families.

Lifesite News once again have their knickers in a knot over how the mainstream church is promoting an alleged “homosexual agenda”.

The six-part program titled “Amoris: Let’s talk Family! Let’s be Family!” contains explicit promotion of homosexual relationships as a form of family, saying that such relationships provide “mutual support” for active homosexuals.

This would be great news if it were true – but in fact, the picture described is greatly exaggeration, depending on a single picture of two women embracing, and a line that refers to “other forms” of union, which Lifesite chooses to interpret as applicable specifically and exclusively to same-sex couples. In fact of course, Amoris Laetitia (on which the entire World Meeting program will be based) recognises a great number of relationships outside of lifelong heterosexual marriage. Same-sex couples are just one of these.

Nevertheless, even if Lifesite fears are exaggerated, there is indeed good news for gay and lesbian couples, and queer families of all shades, in the study material and in the general planning for the World Meeting of Families.  Just as the  line to which Lifesite objects does not necessarily apply only to same-sex couples – it most certainly could apply to us, alongside many others.  In the same way, some of the other images in the material could apply to us – or perhaps not. This one for instance, is quite clearly of two men. Are they a “couple”? That is not spelled out.




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LGBT Presence at World Meeting of Families?

The bishop of Limerick, Bishop Brendan Leahy, has  made explicit what has previously been implied – that gay couples must be made welcome at next year’s World Meeting of Families in Dublin.

….speaking after his diocese launched its preparation programme for WMF2018, an international event which promotes traditional Catholic teaching on marriage, Dr Leahy said the event in August 2018 in Dublin would be a missed opportunity if the Church did not embrace family in all its variety.”We are living in changing times and family too is changing,” he said.”We’ve had the referendum in favour of same-sex marriage and a lot of people voted in that referendum and all are equally welcome to join in this celebration of family.”Everyone must be made feel welcome next year. We all want to build a good family network of support in Ireland at all levels.”

Independent.ie





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“Traditional Family” Values, Traditional “Family Values”

This is fun!
From the great state of South Carolina, we were diverted some months ago by the fascinating tale of how one can now go “hiking the Appalachian trail” in Argentina. Now, in quick succession, it appears that there are two more emerging stories of interest: Mike Rogers reports that rumours about the sexual orientation of a certain Lieutenant – Governor, which have been doing the rounds long enough that even I, on this side of the Atlantic have heard them before, have been “confirmed” (but instead of evidence, Rogers simply points to his “100% track record” on previous outings). Also, from FitsNews.com (“unfair; unbalanced”. the site proudly proclaims), we have:
“S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford may be an amateur Romeo, but it looks like he’s got nothing on his appointment to the S.C. State Board of Education.
Kristin Maguire, an Upstate evangelical and one of South Carolina’s most respected social conservatives, has been one of the governor’s closest education policy advisors for years. She’s also Sanford’s appointment to the S.C. Board of Education, which last year elected her its Chairwoman.
What else is she?
The prolific author of hardcore erotic fiction on the Internet, according to documents provided to the governor’s office earlier this summer and later obtained by FITS.
Maguire, a professed Christian who home-schools her four children, declined to comment for our story but did not deny that she had previously frequented websites that feature such X-rated material.”
Ah, that grand tradition of “defending traditional family values”, as espoused so fervently by Larry Craig, Congressmen Vitter & Foley, preacher Ted Haggert …and all the others whose names I have forgotten and am too lazy right now to look up. You know them better than I do.
In any case, pointing out the hypocrisy is too easy. There are two other points behind this that deserve closer attention, because they are less frequently pointed out.
Outing the Church
First, I applaud Mike Rogers for his commendable work on outing the political hypocrites. (For the record, I am a “fierce defender” of any individual’s rigut to privacy. While I strongly endorse the personal and community value of coming out wherever possible, that final qualification is crucial: sometimes it is just not possible). BUT: when some closeted queer goes on the attack aginst the community, all rights to sympathy are waived. This is a position which I believe is fairly widely shared. So when are the professional ecclesiastical journalists, in the Vatican or around the world, going to start to follow suit?
It is widely reported that a large and growing proportion of priests, at all levels in the hierarchy, are gay. Others are heterosexual, but non-celibate. Professional Vatican watchers, it is said, know not only who many of these people are, but also their partners and preferred sexual practices. As with politicians, I would prefer that they should have the courage to come out publicly, difficult as this would be, but where they choose not to, we must respect their privacy. But as with politicians, where they actively connive in the church’s demonization of “homosexuals” and other sexual minorities, they should lose that right to provacy. There have been plenty of reports of gay bishops and cardinals emerging after their deaths, or after nasty blackmail scandals – so why not when they are alive?
It is also often said that tthe pope’s balls are one of the three most useless things in the world. So………come on, you professional clerical journalists: are yourcojones any more useful than His Holiness’s ?
“Traditional family”: a modern invention
Raymond and I had a wonderful day today enjoying the English landscape, driving around Jane Austen’s beloved Hampshire. I got to see Jane ‘s house where she spent the last ten years of her life, as well as the nearby Gilbert White’s House. Jane Austen is well known as the most popular English novelist, totally respectable and a model of gentility and propriety. Gilbert White is less well known, but equally respectable. He was a clergyman, renowned as a naturalist for his careful observations and detailed notes on natural history and gardening. Guess what? Neither of these models of English respectablity lived in “traditional” family structures. During her years at Chawton, Jane and her similarly unmarried sister Clarissa lived with their widowed mother – and a friend, who lived with them, but occupied a bedroom a little apart. Jane’s brother Thomas had earlier left the family – because he had the good fortune to have been “adopted” by a wealthy childless couple, the Knights, who felt in need of an heir to take charge of their large estate. The Rev White was unmarried – but does not appear to have lived alone in his large, rambling house and extensive garden.
Nor did many people at this time (late 18th and early 19th centuries), or earlier, live in “traditional” family structures. If you were rich enough, you might get to live with your family in a grand country house – but also with the extensive staff required to run it. Tradesmen and working professionals shared their homes with apprentices and servants. Conversely, if you were not rich enough, you probably left your family to live with your employer (if you had one), as an apprentice, in domestic service, or as a farm labourer, or travelled the country as an itinerant tradesman. And if a man was lucky enough to live with his woman and children, perhaps in a farm cottage – it was entirely possible that they were not married at all: marriage was largely a legal matter of settling property, of little practical value or religious importance if there was no property to settle. (Marriage was not required, nor treated as a sacrament by the church, for many centuries),
Biblical Times.
After returning home, I began reading the introduction to Bernadette Brooten’s “Love Between Women”. Just in theopening chapter, I came acros numerous references to same-sex marriages in the classical period – in Rome, in Sparta, in Canaan, in Egypt and elsewhere. It is well known that family structures of the Hebrew Bible hardly conformed to the “traditional” family we keep hearing about, with all-powerful men holding absolute power over the women, children and slaves of the household, with multiple wives and concubines, arranged marriages and extended families living together. In the Christian New Testament, I can’t off the top of my head think of a single instance of a “traditional” family unit. Certainly not Christ’s own biological family, nor His later family of choice, nor the household of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, nor those of the apostles, who were urged to leave their families behind, nor the Roman centurion and his “paidion” (or male slave, commonly used for sexual purposes).
No, wait: there is one, if you ignore the palace staff. The family of Herod, Herodias and Salome lived together as Daddy, Mummy and daughter.
So which of these do you suppose is referred to by “traditional family” values?
(Cross-posted from “Queering the Church“)
 

London Workshop for Catholic LGBT Families

A constant theme during the 2014 and 2015 synod assemblies on marriage and family, and of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation that followed it, was the importance of listening, and accompaniment for families in unconventional situations. This certainly applies to same-sex couples, but it also applies to families with LGBT members. These ideas are coming into increasing prominence, following the recent publication of Fr James Martin’s book, “Building a Bridge”.

In London, the LGBT Catholics Young Adults Group have arranged a workshop to do exactly this.

Walk with me

A day workshop for Catholic family members of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. We hope that listening to input from both Mgr Keith Barltrop, chaplain to the LGBT Catholics Westminster, and the experiences of other family members of LGBT people, will enable those taking part to truly walk with their LGBT family members and accompany them on their journey.

Suggested donation of £10 which will include lunch.

 For more information and to register to this event please fill in the form below or contact us on lgbtcatholicsyag@gmail.com.

 (You can also download the poster below by clicking here.)