Category Archives: News

LGBT Christians’ Annual Conference, Pride parade in Gdansk, Poland.

European Forum at Gdansk Equality March, 2017

Over several  days at the end of May, LGBT Christians from across Europe gathered in Gdansk, Poland for the 36th Annual Conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups. “Forwards in Solidarity” was the theme and Free People in Free Countries was the challenge and call.

The European Forum includes over 50 groups, with some 140 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and other participants from 21 European countries present at the 2017 Conference. These included people from Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical, Reformed and Orthodox traditions. Observers attended from ENORB (European Network on Religion & Belief), GIN (Global Interfaith Network), and ILGA (International Lesbian & Gay Association).

In a European social context of increasing fragmentation, nationalistic and conservative political developments, the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups takes a prophetic stance in the face of oppression and discrimination within and beyond church structures. Gathering in the birthplace of the Solidarność trade union movement, was another powerfully prophetic sign.

Pointing to the 2016 campaign “Let’s give each other a Sign of Peace”, mounted by the Polish Christian network, Faith & Rainbow (Wiara i Tęcza) along with the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), the Forum’s Co-President, Wielie Elhorst said:

Posters with two hands reaching for each other, one with a rainbow bracelet, the other with rosary beads, were spread throughout the country … It was a courageous effort to make clear to the people of Poland that they need to take further steps in solidarity, to work for a society that is truly inclusive and that gives all the opportunity to participate in equality in all domains of life, to adopt laws that protect and support people to freely follow their sexual orientation and their own gender identity, without fear. How can a hand that is offered as a Sign of Peace be rejected, especially by the representatives of the churches? Rejecting the hand that is offered in Peace is rejecting people’s humanity, rejecting them as your neighbour.

The Conference included powerful testimonies from former Solidarity activist and, trans Orthodox believer, Ms. Ewa Hołuszko, and Krzysztof Charamsa, Catholic priest, previously Assistant Secretary to the International Theological Commission of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who ”came out” as gay and partnered in October 2015. Ms. Hołuszko spoke of the centrality of her faith both in her political struggles and her ”erasure” from Polish social prominence, following her transition. Charamsa called for a Stonewall revolution of LGBTQI visibility within Catholic Church structures.

The Conference culminated with participants joining Gdansk’s largest ever Pride Parade on, 27 May, attended by over 5,000 people, and launched for the first time by the Mayor of Gdansk. Neo-fascists picketed the Parade but were held back by a massive protective police presence, preventing violence.

Faith in Solidarity: European Forum 2017 in Gdansk.

Many people of a certain age will recall the central role of Gdansk in the story of Polish resistance to communist rule.  As the  birthplace of the Solidarity movement and the base of its leader, Lech Walesa, it filled our television news screens often enough throughout the 1980’s. As a gay Catholic, I am struck by the powerful symbolism of choosing this city for a  conference of LGBT Christians.

Hammering the message home, is the formal theme for the 2017 conference of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, is the formal theme for the conference: “Faith in Solidarity”. Further reinforcing it, is the prominent part in the program of the use as a secondary venue for the conference, the European Centre for Solidarity just a few blocks from the hotel which is the main venue. For one evening, we were at the venue for a screening of a documentary film about the life of a transwoman who had been a leading figure in the original solidarity movement, followed by and interview with the woman herself. Later in the week, there will be public workshops and a panel discussion in the centre, followed by  optional formal guided tours of the centre.

“Solidarity” here is used in two quite different contexts. The primary use, is a reference to the English translation of the Polish trade union and democracy movement “Solidarność“. A subsidiary meaning, is that the centre was built by the Europeans, “in solidarity” with Poland and their struggle for democracy – and as a wider symbol of the solidarity of all Europeans in a common cause. It is in that sense that the European Forum choice of Gdansk as the venue for conference 2017, is particularly apposite. The Forum as a whole, and in particular the well-established groups from Western Europe where LGBT inclusion and equality are becoming well-established in law and in social custom, are here to demonstrate our solidarity with our LGBT colleagues in Poland – and others in similarly difficult conditions elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

That sentiment of solidarity will be given concrete expression later today, 27th May 2017, when delegates to  the European Forum conference will join with the secular LGBT rights group “Tolerado” and other LGBT activists, for Gdansk’s annual “Tri-City March of Equality”.

Gay Marriage Comes to Taiwan

It’s been widely expected, and now it’s confirmed by the BBC: same-sex marriage is coming to Taiwan. Note though that this is “same-sex” marriage, and not necessarily full marriage equality. The court ruling has given the parliament two years to legislate for marriage between same-sex couples, but it’s possible that such legislation could provide only for marriage, but not for any of the contingent rights that normally come with heterosexual couples. It could also take two years or more, for this decision to take full effect. There will not be gay wedding bells in Taipei, just yet.

This is the first Asian country to approve gay marriage, in any form – but it won’t be the last. We now have same-sex marriage approved, at least in principle, on every continent. That surely deserves

Taiwan’s top judges have ruled in favour of gay marriage, paving the way for it to become the first place in Asia to legalise same-sex unions.

The highest court ruled that current laws preventing members of the same sex from marrying violated their right to equality and were unconstitutional.

It gave parliament two years to amend existing laws or pass new ones.

Wednesday’s landmark decision came as the LGBT community faces increasing persecution in the region.

In a press release following the ruling, the court said that “disallowing two persons of the same sex to marry, for the sake of safeguarding basic ethical orders” constituted a “different treatment” with “no rational basis.”

The court concluded that “such different treatment is incompatible with the spirit and meaning of the right to equality” as protected by Taiwan’s constitution.

More at: BBC News

Year of Mercy Mass for LGBT Catholics – Nottingham

We have written before of Quest’s new emphasis on engagement and advocacy work with British bishops. One of the visible fruits of this is a forthcoming Mass for LGBT Catholics, to be held in St Barnabas’ Cathedral, Nottingham.

nottingham-lgbt-massEarlier this year, Ruby Almeida as Quest chair, accompanied by Claire Jenkins of the East Midlands regional group, met with Bishop McKinney. Later, Claire and other members of East Midlands had further meetings with the bishops, culminating in agreement on the forthcoming Mass, as described in the poster pictured above.  We hope that Quest members, their family and friends from East Midlands and other regions, wlll support this notable Mass.

In Nottingham diocese, we hope furthermore that this initiative will lead to further engagement with the diocese, and additional pastoral outreach to LGBT Catholics in the years ahead. Beyond Nottingham, engagement and advocacy with Catholic bishops and other groups will continue.

 

3 LGBT Groups Invited to Major German Catholic Gathering.

In Germany today, Catholics gathered in Leipzig for the start of a three-day major event, the “Catholic Conference Day”, which has been held every two years since 1848 (except for an interruption during the National Socialist period). With over 1000 different exhibitions and events, some 30 000 visitors are expected. Organized by the Central Committee of German Catholics, the event is so important and influential, that in attendance are not only the leading members of the German Catholic Church, but also senior politicians.

(Image from Kreuz und Queer, an lgbt blog at the Evangelisch church website, http://www.evangelisch.de/blogs/kreuz-und-queer)

For the Church, the President of the German Catholic Bishops Conference Cardinal Reinhard Marx, is taking part, and also Cardinal Karl Lehmann,  the lgbt supportive Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, and other notable prelates. Pope Francis sent a pre-recorded message for delivery to the assembly.

For the state, the German President delivered the opening day keynote address, while a cabinet minister, a state  premier, and others from all major parties (except one) were also present.

Prominently in attendance, present by direct and explicit invitation to promote lgbt inclusion in church, are three countrywide LGBT advocacy groups: Netzwerk katholischer Lesben (the Catholic Lesbian Network), Arbeitsgruppe Homosexuelle und Kirche (HuK) (Workgroup Homosexuals and Church), and Initiative Kirche von unten, a progressive grass-roots organization that actively advocates for LGBT inclusion. Continue reading 3 LGBT Groups Invited to Major German Catholic Gathering.

“New Ways” Welcomes Trans Employment at Catholic School

Catholic teaching is unequivocal on lesbian and gay Catholics is clear: they should be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”, and should be protected from unjust discrimination, and from any form of malice or violence Teaching on transgender people is not explicitly spelled out, but the same principles apply. In matters of employment, protection from discrimination and injustice is further entrenched in a series of solidly magisterial social justice encyclicals. In spite of that, recent years have seen an alarming number of reports of lgbt Catholics who have lost employment, excluded from ministry, or suffered other forms of discrimination, on the basis of their orientation or gender identity.

On the other hand, we should always remember that the stories that make the news, do so precisely because they are unusual. There are many more examples of people who do not suffer discrimination, and are fully accepted in their parishes, or places of Catholic employment – but because their situations are so ordinary, they are just not reported.

Occasionally, there are exceptions.  One such is the example of a school in San Francisco, where the Mercy Sisters have written to parents of their decision to continue employment of a transgender man. This decision has been welcomed by New Ways Ministry as “Gospel based”. So it is – and also solidly based in authentic Catholic doctrine.

Francis DeBenardo, executive director of New Ways, writes in a press statement:

Catholic Ministry Thanks Mercy Sisters For Equal Employment of Transgender Teacher

MOUNT RAINIER, Maryland– New Ways Ministry congratulates and thanks the Sisters of Mercy and the administrators of Mercy H.S., San Francisco, for their Gospel-based decision to continue employment of one of their teachers who identifies as a transgender man. This decision stands as a beacon of hope in the midst of the terrible darkness of the recent trend of firing LGBT employees from Catholic institutions. The decision was announced in a letter to parents of students, which, after describing the teacher’s situation, stated:

“This afternoon, we informed students, faculty and staff about our resolve to support the dignity of each person—regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identification.”

We applaud, too, the courage of English Department chair and teacher Gabriel Stein-Bodenheimer for honoring his gender identity, as well to his commitment to educate students in the Mercy tradition. His personal example will be a most powerful lesson to all in the school’s community, especially because his decision involved a large degree of risk.
This story reflects a true Catholic commitment to respecting the dignity of LGBT people—a principle which is shared by millions of Catholics across the U.S. The experience of this school will help our Church to heal from the pain of too many past negative decisions regarding LGBT people. Our Catholic Church will only be strengthened by this decision.
The Sisters of Mercy offer a courageous example of inclusion and equality that could be replicated by so many other Catholic schools, parishes, and social service agencies when they learn of an employee’s gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital status. This example can be a turning point in what has been a dark chapter of the U.S. Catholic Church, when over 60 faithful employees have lost their church jobs because of LGBT issues.
Their process included wide consultation, reflection, and prayer. As the letter described:

“. . . we collaborated with the Board Chair Diane Lawrence and a team of key administrators while we studied how to respond in a manner consistent with Mercy and Gospel values and your School’s Catholic Identity. We prayed for guidance. We also consulted trusted advisors as we applied these principles to this circumstance.”

Furthermore, the Sisters showed their commitment to caring for the entire school community by having counselors available for anyone–student, parent, staff–to discuss their questions and concerns.
The Sisters of Mercy grounded their decision in the principles of Mercy which form the charism of their community. These same principles of mercy are promoted by Pope Francis, particularly in this year which he declared as a Jubilee of Mercy. Pope Francis’ message of acceptance and encounter with the LGBT community have been given flesh and blood by the Sisters’ decision to continue the teacher’s employment.
New Ways Ministry calls on other Catholic religious communities of Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters–and indeed, all Catholic administrators—to rejoice in the Sisters of Mercy’s example, and to honor it by following it as a way to end employment discrimination against LGBT church employees.

Italian Bishops’ (de facto) Acceptance of Civil Unions.

For years, Italy has been a major, conspicuous anomaly on the Wikipedia map of same-sex unions in Europe: the only country of Western Europe to have neither same-sex marriage, nor any other legal recognition for same-sex couples. Up to now, this has come about with the implacable opposition of the Italian bishops to any form of legal recognition.

With the passage this week of a civil unions bill in the Italian senate, by a comfortable majority, that’s about to change. More remarkably, this has come about with the de facto acquiescence of the Italian bishops. This is a truly remarkable turnaround, in just a few years!

Screenshot 2016-02-27 at 09.38.36 - Edited

Continue reading Italian Bishops’ (de facto) Acceptance of Civil Unions.

Anglican Gay Priest Elected to General Synod Senior Post

An openly gay Anglican priest has been elected to an influential post in the church’s General Synod.

CanonSimonB

Canon Simon Butler was in the news last February, when he came out as openly gay and not celibate, during a debate at the Anglican General Synod on the Pilling Report on human sexuality, proclaiming publicly  Continue reading Anglican Gay Priest Elected to General Synod Senior Post

Charamsa, on His Future

Continuing with my free translation of gay theologian Monsignor Charamsa’s interview in Religion Digital.

Msgr Krzysztof Charamsa
Msgr Krzysztof Charamsa

Will you remain a priest, will you ask for secularization or will they impose a penalty?

I am and I remain a priest. I’m a better priest than I was before today. Conversely, it is I who will ask Church to open  eyes.

Do you plan to write a book about his experiences in the Vatican?

Yes, I believe it my duty to further explain my experience in the Church, and do it for the good of the Church itself, which must become and apologize for their institutional scandals, for its delays, its irrational paranoia of homophobia. Anyone who sees and experiences it has a duty to awaken the Church, which has already exceeded all tolerable limit.

If the pope asked you personally, would you leave your partner and return to the Vatican?

No, I would not leave my partner because I love him and because there is no doctrinal reason to. For a priest having a partner, whether male or female,  is not against the faith, it is not against the doctrine of our faith. Conversely, it is the Church and the Pope who should start thinking seriously about the inhuman discipline of mandatory celibacy and the Church’s  obsession with homosexuality and human sexuality in general.

Go back to the Vatican? No, never. I would be a masochist, a person who seeks suffering and offennds against their own identity. I’m not a masochist. The Vatican is one of the least holy places I’ve ever met in my life. I want to live happy, I want to be holy, what it means to be happy and live in the light of God and the dignity of man. In the Vatican most people are not happy. It is a place that needs a spiritual and mental conversion. It needs the air of God. air that is lacking there.

See also the full series: