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.
I’m sitting in the main room for the GNRC Assembly, waiting for evening prayers to begin. It’s been a gentle late start to proceedings, to allow time for travellers to make their assorted way to Munich. However, already I’ve been inspired.
During the opening session, our co-chair Michael Brinkschroeder presented a progress report of the approach taken by a team of German LGBT Catholics in their dialogue with local bishops, and what has been arleady been achieved. I already knew some of what he said, but there were also pleasant surprises, even for me. (For example, the local archdiocese is one of the co-sponsors of the assembly). I’ll have a more complete report on the German progress, later.
This evening we convened in a series of working groups: this is very much a working congress, I’m pleased that I’ve been allocated to my first choice – “dialogue with bishops”. This evening was not much more than an introductory ice-breaker, getting to know each other and sharing initial thoughts. Even so, it was inspiring to meet people from a range of countries and circumstances, and to realise just how much is already being done, in terms of dialogue with a wide range of bishops. This includes some notable senior figures in the Vatican, senior bishops in our home countries, and more. We began to discuss some useful principles for good practice. Many useful ideas were presented.
Tomorrow, we continue the work, with the aim of developing some firm commitments and principles for ongoing work, once the Assembly has ended.
On Monday this week, I visited St Francis Xavier 6th Form College, on behalf of Quest, to talk about the experience of being both Catholic and gay (or lesbian). This was my third school visit. All have been different from each other, in how they were initiated and in the focus of the presentation – but all have been intensely rewarding, each in their own way.
This week’s visit was initiated by the school, with an invitation to Quest to speak to the school on the general them of “Catholic and Gay”. I arrived early, and after a brief chat with the deputy head Ciaran Graham, who had issued the invitation, he took me on an enjoyable tour of the school facilities . I was particularly interested in the school chapel, which has been a place of prayer and worship for over 120 years.
With just 20 minutes available for the talk, I could do no more than skim the surface of the subject. I began with a very brief outline of my own story, then described the three broad themes that had helped me personally to reconcile faith and sexuality: the Catholic insistence on the primacy of conscience, my experience of prayer and particularly Ignatian spirituality, and my exploration of the biblical evidence – both what Keith Sharpe refers to as “defensive” and “affirmative” scriptures.
I thought it went well. I could see that with a handful of exceptions, the kids were attentive and absorbed. There were no questions afterwards, but then I had gone over my allotted 20 minutes, so I think they were just anxious to get away. However, the staff I spoke to were enthusiastic, and on my way to the station afterwards, I met some of the students who thanked me, and said it had been enjoyable and helpful. That was confirmed later, in an email from the deputy head.
Once again a huge thank you for coming in. Indeed I’ve spoken to a few students who found it a very valuable talk and the teachers present have nothing but praise.
I’ll be in touch again to take you up on your very kind offer.
Lifesite News reports that Cardinal Nichols has recommended to the priests of Westminster diocese that they should “make use” of Quest in ministering to “those with same-sex attraction”.
In a communication a little over a week ago to priests in the Archdiocese of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols recommended that they make use of the organization Quest to minister to “those who live with a same-sex attraction and are often very anxious about their journey to God and their relationship with the Church.” The letter was leaked to LifeSiteNews.
“Quest, which was founded in 1973, is a national organisation providing support for LGBT Catholics, their friends and families,” Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, stated in his letter. The Cardinal is the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
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).
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.
When Pope Francis earlier this month confirmed the “heroic virtue” of Pope John Paul I, he conferred on him the title “Venerable”, reminding us of Pope John Paul II’s earlier declaration of him as a “servant of God” – the first step on the road to sainthood.
My interest in John Paul I is that there have been numerous suggestions that he may have been the first to speak up for pastoral support for gay couples – for example, by permitting adoption by gay couples, or even for some form of recognition for same-sex unions.
My original source came from a post at “The Gay Mystic, which I first wrote about some years ago. I’ve now done some more research, and found much more of interest.
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).
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.
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:
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.