Prominent English Religious Leaders “Rejoice” in Gay Marriage

gay marriage, uk

We rejoice that from tomorrow same-sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales.

As persons of faith, we welcome this further development in our marriage law, which has evolved over the centuries in response to changes in society and in scientific knowledge.

We acknowledge that some (though not all) of the faith organisations to which we belong do not share our joy, and continue to express opposition in principle to such marriages. We look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, when all people of faith will feel able to welcome this development.

Martin Pendergast, chair of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, has released a statement in support, on behalf of CSCS:

The Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality(CSCS) welcomes the support for same-sex marriage expressed by a number of religious leaders from different faith communities in a statement issued today, 28 March 2014. CSCS would also like to highlight the growing acceptance of same-sex unions, including their religious celebration, by grass-roots believers, congregations, and organisations from a variety of faith traditions.

Signatories to the CEC / LGBTI Anglican Coalition letter included senior office bearers of Liberal Judaism, the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, Quakers in Britain, the Movement for Reform Judaism and the Metropolitan Community Church, North London, and Revd Steve Chalke of Oasis.

Anglican signatories included one serving and seven former Anglican bishops and five Anglican deans. A second serving bishop, Nick Holtam of Salisbury, was not named in the published list of signatories, but has released an independent statement in support of gay marriage, and praising the courage of those couples planning to wed.

This mood of celebration was also expressed in a leader article in Church Times, which noted (in part):

THE first same-sex marriages this weekend will be occasions of celebration. At the political level, an inequality has been remedied. At a personal level, the virtues of love, commitment and faithfulness will be proclaimed publicly, as they are at every wedding. All of this is to be celebrated, as it was this week in a letter signed by clergy in Camden, north London: “We pray for all those who are marrying this year – that they may find rich comfort and blessing in each other for the whole of their life together.”

The full list of signatories to the CEC / LGBTI Anglican Coalition letter is:

Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism
Derek McAuley, Chief Officer, General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism
Revd Sharon Ferguson, Senior Pastor, MCC North London
Revd Steve Chalke, Oasis

Rt Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham
Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth, former Bishop of Oxford
Rt Revd Richard Lewis, former Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich
Rt Revd Peter Selby, former Bishop of Worcester
Rt Revd John Saxbee, former Bishop of Lincoln
Rt Revd Michael Doe, Preacher to Gray’s Inn, former Bishop of Swindon
Rt Revd David Gillett, former Bishop of Bolton
Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, former Bishop of Hulme
Very Revd Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans
Very Revd Jonathan Draper, Dean of Exeter
Very Revd Mark Bonney, Dean of Ely
Very Revd Lister Tonge, Dean of Monmouth
Very Revd Mark Beach, Dean of Rochester

(Cross – posted from Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality)

Preaching the Gospel, in Belfast – in Drag.

From the Belfast Telegraph:

A gay cleric who preaches in drag wants to bring his message of love to Belfast.

 Ron Eberly - Mz Rhonda

Belfast born Ron Eberly, who describes himself as “Christ Drag Queen”, left for Canada in 1975, but now he wants to return home to speak in churches as his glamorous alter ego — Mz Rhonda.

The son of a baptist preacher, Ron emigrated from Penrose Street off the Ormeau Road with his family and later attended bible college in Canada.

He met his wife with whom he had two children during a missionary trip to Belize — but they divorced eight years later when Ron realised he “had to live an honest life”.

Ron’s family disowned him for 20 years after he came out, but he reconciled with them shortly before his parents’ deaths in 2012.

He still uses his late mother’s hats to perform as Mz Rhonda because he says they make him look like “a little church lady”.

Ron found love and married again 14 years ago, but this time to a man.

 – full report at BelfastTelegraph.co.uk.

Let Us Remember, March 17th: St Patrick of Ireland- a Gay Role Model?

So why should we see St Paddy as a gay icon?

In a notable book on Irish gay history (Terrible Queer Creatures“) Brian Lacey presents some evidence that Patrick may have had a long term intimate relationship with a man:
“St. Patrick himself may have had a relationship tinged with homoeroticism. Tirechan, a late seventh century cleric who wrote about St. Patrick, tells the story of a man Patrick visited and converted to Christianity, who had a son to whom Patrick took a strong liking. Tirechan wrote that “he gave him the name Benignus, because he took Patrick’s feet between his hands and would not sleep with his father and mother, but wept unless he would be allowed to sleep with Patrick.” Patrick baptized the boy and made him his close lifelong companion, so much so that Benignus succeeded Patrick as bishop of Armagh.”
saint-patrick
Among the few verifiable facts of Patrick’s life, are that when he was about 16, he was captured from his home and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland as an ordained bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.
It is his return to his place of hardship and slavery that should interest LGBT Catholics. Somewhere, I read a report* that after his escape from slavery and return to Ireland, he supported himself by working for a time as a prostitute  – yes, good old Patrick is said to have sold sexual favours.

*  In a comment to an earlier posting of this piece, theologian John McNeill has said that he thinks the book with this story was “How the Irish Saved Civilization“, by Thomas Cahill. “He claims that Patrick paid for his passage back to Ireland by servicing the sailors on the boat.”

 

 

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The (Gay) Roman Centurion and his "Boy"

In Catholic tradition, March 15th is the feast day of “Longinus”,  the name given to the Roman centurion at the crucifixion who pierced Christ’s side with his spear.  Some writers, like Paul Halsall of the LGBT Catholic Handbook, also identify him with the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his “beloved boy”, who was ill. It is this second person that I am interested in here.  In this persona, he is one of my personal favourites, as his story shows clearly how the Lord himself is completely not hostile to a clearly gay relationship, and also because we hear a clear reminder of this every time we attend Mass – if only we have ears to hear.
It may be that you do not recall any Gospel stories about a gay centurion and his male lover, but that is because cautious or prudish translators have softened the words of the text, and because the word “gay” is not really appropriate for the historical context. You are more likely to know as the story as the familiar one of the Roman centurion and his “servant” – But this is a poor translation. Matthew uses the word “doulos“, which means slave, not a mere servant.  Luke uses quite a different word, “pais“, which can mean servant boy – but more usually has the sense of a man’s younger male lover – or “boyfriend”.Whichever of the two words or their senses was intended by the authors, the conclusions we should draw are the same. If “pais”  was intended here to indicate a lover, the conclusion is obvious.  If the intended meaning was either “slave ” or “servant” – the conclusion does not significantly change. To see this, let us consider the cultural context. For three centuries before Christ, the Jews had been under foreign military occupation, first by the Greeks (which is why demotic Greek had become lingua franca across the region, and was the language of the New Testament), then by Romans. These military overlords were about as well liked as any other military invaders anywhere – which is not at all.  The Jews hated them – but will have been quite familiar with Greek and Roman cultural (and sexual) practices.

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"Eternal Bliss" – SS Felicity and Perpetua, March 7th

Felicitas Perpetua” = eternal bliss – and also the names of the two saints the Catholic Church remembers and celebrates every year on March 7, SS Felicity and Perpetua, who were martyred together in Carthage in 203. Their story is not well known, but their names are familiar to Catholics as one of many same sex couples listed in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass. These paired names are an echo of their place in the ancient rite of adelphopoeisis (literally, “making of brothers”), the liturgical rite once used to bless same sex unions in Church.

As two women martyred together, and from the kiss of peace which they exchanged at the end, they are frequently described as a lesbian counterpart to Sergius and Bacchus. This is inaccurate. Their relationship was not primarily one of lovers in the modern sense, but of mistress and slave. But that description is also inaccurate to modern ears, as it overlooks the very different status of women,and the very different nature of marriage relationships, in Roman times. In the journal kept by Perpetua (from which we know the story), she never once even mentions her husband. It is entirely possible (even probable?) that whatever the nature of her sexual life, Perpetua’s emotional involvement with Felicity may have been more important than her relationship with her husband.

This relationship was certainly an intense and devoted one. As such, we can recognize it as queer – and on hearing their names during the Mass, reflect on the place of same sex unions over many centuries of church history.

 For more on the biographical details, see the excellent post at Jesus in Love. Here is an extract:

The details of their imprisonment are known because Perpetua kept a journal, the first known written document by a woman in Christian history. In fact, her “Passion of St. Perpetua, St. Felicitas, and their Companions” was so revered in North Africa that St. Augustine warned people not to treat it like the Bible. People loved the story of the two women comforting each other in jail and giving each other the kiss of peace as they met their end.
Perpetua was a 22-year-old noblewoman and a nursing mother. Felicity, her slave, gave birth to a daughter while they were in prison. Although she was married, Perpetua does not mention having a husband in the narrative.
They were arrested for their Christian faith, imprisoned together, and held onto each other in the amphitheater at Carthage shortly before their execution on March 7, 203.
The icon of Perpetua and Felicity at the top of this post was painted by Brother Robert Lentz, a Franciscan friar and world-class iconographer known for his progressive icons. It is rare to see an icon about the love between women, especially two African women. The rich reds and heart-shaped double-halo make it look like a holy Valentine.
Read more at Jesus in Love
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German Bishop Declares Support for Gay Civil Unions, Says Sexual Doctrines Must Change.

The bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, is the latest Catholic bishop to acknowledge that while the Church cannot approve of gay marriage, it should accept the value of same – sex civil unions.

Bishop of Trier, Stephen Ackermann

As far as homosexual relationships were concerned, the church would have to appeal to people’s sense of responsibility, he continued. “The Christian concept of the human being emanates from the polarity of the sexes but we cannot simply say homosexuality is unnatural,” he explained. While the church must “hold fast” to the uniqueness of marriage between a man and a woman, it could not just ignore registered same-sex unions where the couples had promised to be faithful to and responsible for one another.

This is not the first time that Bishop Ackermaann has distinguished himself as supportive of LGBT equality. A few years ago, he hit the headlines when he made an entirely unannounced visit to an LGBT community centre, and spent his time listening to the views of LGBT people – highly unusual, and definitely very welcome, for a Catholic bishop.

These latest remarks were made in the broader context of an interview with the German paper, Allgemeine Zeitung, on the lessons to be drawn from the responses to the global consultation on marriage and family. His conclusions, that it is now obvious that doctrine is sadly out of touch with Catholic reality and needs to change, is completely consistent with the findings of the consultation and other, independent research – and should be self- evident to any independent observer.

Interviewed by the Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz, Ackermann, 50, said the responses showed “quite clearly” that for the majority of the faithful the church’s teaching on moral sexuality was “repressive” and “remote from life.” Declaring a second marriage after a divorce a perpetual mortal sin, and under no circumstances allowing remarried divorced people ever to receive the Sacraments, was not helpful, he said and added, “We bishops will have to make suggestions here. We must strengthen people’s sense of responsibility and then respect their decisions of conscience.”

It was also no longer tenable to declare that every kind of cohabitation before marriage was a grievous sin, and “the difference between natural and artificial Birth control is somehow artificial. No one understands it I fear,” Ackermann said.

Predictably, his thoughts have already drawn a backlash from some colleagues: not for their content, but for stepping out of line and publicly revealing the conclusions of a single diocese. Even so, he has also received some support:

Ackermann was sharply criticized by Bishops Heinz Josef Algermissen of Fulda and Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg.

For an individual bishop to react to the responses of the questionnaire on his own was “counterproductive,” Algermissen, 71, said. “I don’t hold with the normative strength of facts. Truth is not something that can be adjusted,” he insisted but went on to admit, “We bishops obviously have a problem. We have clearly not succeeded in putting across Catholic sexual ethics and its positive concept of the human being.” Decisions on such matters were, however, the world church’s concern and not the concern of an individual bishop or bishops’ conference, Algermissen emphasized.

But the Bishop of Magdeburg in former Eastern Germany, Gerhard Feige, 63, came out in defense of Ackermann and sharply criticized the bishop’s critics. He agreed with Ackermann’s views on the responses, Feige told KNA, the German Catholic news agency. “The time has finally come to face naked reality. We must struggle to find fair, responsible and life-serving solutions in the spirit of Jesus Christ. It is not helpful to keep on repeating prohibitions or reservations,” Feige underlined.

The Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family, scheduled for October 2014, was never intended to be an occasion to change existing sexual doctrines, but merely an opportunity to formulate more appropriate pastoral responses. Actions, however, often have unintended consequences, and it is becoming ever clearer that even if the synod is not intended to change teaching, the results of the consultation will result in many serious discussions at the synod about the need to do so.

On Catholic sexual doctrines, I strongly suspect that the revolution has begun.

For the record – an updated listing of Catholic bishops and cardinals who have expressed support for same – sex civil unions:

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Books

German Gay Clergy Win Right to Live with Partners

News from Germany:

Protestant churches in northern Germany have voted to allow gay pastors to live in church residences with their same-sex partners for the first time.

The rule change from the two-year-old Northern Church – a union of Protestant churches –  was voted in almost unanimously by a summit in Lübeck on Friday by 156 votes to two.

  It states that as long as a prospective pastor and his or her same-sex partner are in a “recognized life partnership” (the equivalent of a UK civil partnership), the pair are to be treated the same as heterosexual couples when being considered for entering a parish residence.

  The right to live in the clergy’s residence is a “symbol” according to Pastor Mathias Benckert, a spokesman for the Northern Church.

  Benckert told The Local: “The principles of trust, care, reliability and commitment, all the things that would need to be part of a pastor’s marriage – these things also go for a registered life partnership,” he said.

  The rules guaranteed that clergy, whether gay or straight, would only be chosen if the parish council and the regional supervisor, whose job it is to nominate them, agreed.

  The model allows conservative and liberal elements of the church to form a consensus, Benckert said, as if the congregation is not happy with a prospective clergyman or woman, they will not be selected.

– full report at The Local

In Michigan, Gay Marriage – “For the Sake of the Children”?

One of the standard conservative arguments against gay marriage, is that it is somehow harmful to children. In Michigan, a court is being asked to evaluating this claim – and the conservatives are having a rough time of it. They planned to produce two expert witnesses – but got off to a poor start. Yesterday, the judge ruled that the first witness for the state could not take the stand, because he is still a student, and so does not quality as an expert. Today, the second alleged expert was due to testify – but in the meantime, his own employer, the University of Texas, dismissed his research as methodologically flawed.

Plaintiffs Jayne Rowse, left, and her partner April DeBoer stand outside Federal Court in Detroit on Feb. 25, 2014. / Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press

 

The case began when two women asked the court to recognize both of them as joint parents of their three adopted children – which is currently prohibited by virtue of Michigan’s ban on same – sex marriage. Continue reading In Michigan, Gay Marriage – “For the Sake of the Children”?

Dalai Lama OKs Homosexuality, Gay Marriage

We must never forget that while the countries outside of Europe and Nothern America appear to be “behind” the rest of the world in LGBT equality, this is deceptive. It was the European missionaries and colonial authorities that introduced homophobia and criminal penalties for behaviour that is entirely natural and non – pathological. In recent times, it’s been some groups of Western evangelical Christians that have been inciting intolerance in Africa, and in Russia. But outside the three monotheistic religions, other world religions in their original forms were indifferent or supportive of sexual and gender diversity, and of the only eight countries that have never criminalized homosexuality, all are in Africa.

The Dalai Lama. head of Tibetan Buddhism, has endorsed this traditional Buddhist view that sexuality is a personal matter, and that in his view, gay marriage is “okay”, as long as it is mutually agreed by both parties concerned – but homophobia and bullying, are not.

The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Buddhism, has said that he approves of gay sex, homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

In a sit down interview for “Larry King Now,” he says same-sex marriage is fine—it’s really bullying and homophobia that is morally wrong and against human rights, reported instinctmagazine.com.

The Dalai Lama is currently on a three-week visit to the United States where he gave his interview for the TV show “Larry King Now” in Los Angeles on February 26.

When asked about homosexuality in general and gay rights, the Dalai Lama responded: “That’s a personal matter. People who have a special tradition, you should follow according to your own tradition. … But non-believer, that’s up to them. Different form of sex? So long as it’s safe, okay! And fully agreed, okay! Bullied? Abused? That’s what is wrong. That’s a violation of human rights.”

When asked about same-sex marriage rights, the Dalai Lama said: “That’s up to the countries’ laws. It’s okay, I think individual business. If a couple really feels that way, practical, satisfaction … if both sides fully agree, then okay!”

The Dalai Lama is head and spiritual leader of the largest and most influential Buddhist tradition in Tibet. He is recognized as the world’s leading religious figures with influence far beyond his community.  He belongs to the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

via GayAsiaNews.