In the news the past week, has been the legal conflict over marriage between the federal courts and the head of the state supreme court.
Of interest for lgbt Christians , is that even in this deeply conservative Southern state, churches are making provision for same – sex church weddings. A central Alabama grouping of Presbyterian congregations this week approved the resolution taken at last year’s General Synod to change the definition of marriage in the church’s constitution:
The Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, a central Alabama group of churches affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), voted 75-39 Thursday in favor of approving gay marriages.
They became one of about 38 presbyteries nationwide that have voted in favor of gay marriage, with 14 voting against. The change to the 1.8-million-member denomination’s official stance will become official if 86 of the 171 presbyteries vote in favor.
The denomination’s General Assembly last year issued an authoritative interpretation allowing same-sex marriages, but the vote will change language in the constitution that says “marriage is a civil contract between a woman and a man” to language stating that marriage is between “two persons.”
Previously, the Episcopal bishop of Alabama has said that the diocese will conduct blessing services (but not marriage services) for same – sex couples.
Across Western Europe, most of the Wikipedia same – sex marriage map is already painted dark blue, for full marriage equality: in two major exceptions, Ireland and Finland, it’s now just a matter of time, before they too offer full marriage and family equality. Italy, with the influence of the powerful Catholic Church to contend with, is another story – but even here, there is the possibility of civil unions in the not too distant future.
But that’s Western Europe. In Central and Eastern Europe, it’s very different. No country yet provides legal recognition for same – sex marriages, and in some cases, homosexuality itself is prohibited by law. In others, light blue for civil unions / civil partnerships are the closest we get
That could be about to change: alone among the formerly Communist countries the USSR and Yugoslavia is currently preparing legislation for non- discriminatory, fully inclusive marriage.
From Gay Star News:
(Slovenian) Government says treating same-sex unions differently is unconstitutional
A bill to allow gay marriage and adoption in Slovenia passed its first hurdle Tuesday (10 February) as a parliamentary committee backed the measure after several hours of debate.
The committee on labor, family, social affairs and the disabled voted in favor of making marriage law gender neutral by 11 votes to two.
The amendment was proposed by the opposition party, United Left, which said that marriage applies to two people – regardless of gender.
Gay civil unions are already legal in the country. However, not all marriage benefits are granted to same-sex couples and Slovenian law defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association welcomed the vote.
‘This is an infinitely practical suggestion; it proposes treating all couples with dignity and respect. Such a move would signal that Slovenia values its same-sex couples just as much as its heterosexual citizens; based on basic equality principles and common sense,’ said Evelyne Paradis, ILGA-Europe’s executive director.
A new family code which would have extended marriage rights and protections to same-sex unions was approved by the Slovenian parliament in 2011.
However, the law was rejected by a narrow margin in a referendum the following year.
Earlier this week, the Slovenian government issued a statement on the issue:
‘According to the government’s opinion on the draft act, the Slovenian constitution does not allow for the different treatment of same-sex unions; on the contrary, when writing the constitution, the authors were aware of this significant fact and recognized sexual orientation as a matter of personal circumstance, whereby the state should not allow discrimination, as everyone should be guaranteed the same freedom, and should even strive to guarantee equality
– See more at Gay Star News
For lgbt Catholics, and many other Christians, one of the most pressing and agonising dilemmas they face, is that of reconciling what they know to be the truth of their sexuality or gender identity, and church teaching. For Catholics in particular, the top – line response should be easy – “Follow your conscience”. The primacy of conscience is firmly established in Church teaching. Sadly, it’s not quite that simple. Following one’s own conscience is not a blanket get – out of jail free card, allowing us to simply decide according to our own impulses how to make up our mind on ethical issues: Church teaching is clear on the primacy of conscience – but also insists on a rider, that conscience must be fully formed. Some Catholic archconservatives would argue that a conscience can only be fully formed, if it leads to straightforward compliance with the rules of the Catechism, but that is also simply not so. The essence of the dilemma, really, is not about how to reconcile sexuality and Church teaching, but how to find a balance between these two views.
An excellent starting point in that exploration is in an article in America magazine, “Following Faithfully: The Catholic way to choose the good“, by the lay theologians Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler is worth not just reading, but careful study. (So is their influential book on sexual ethics, “The Sexual Person”).
We hope to reprint the full article in the next Quest Bulletin, but meanwhile, here are just a few extracts:
On the primacy of conscience:
From the great doctor of the church, Thomas Aquinas:
“Anyone upon whom the ecclesiastical authorities, in ignorance of the true facts, impose a demand that offends against his clear conscience should perish in excommunication rather than violate his conscience.” For any Catholic in search of truth, no stronger statement on the authority and inviolability of personal conscience could be found, but Aquinas goes further. He insists that even the dictate of an erroneous conscience must be followed and that to act against such a dictate is immoral.
- Conscience Formation, Spiritual Formation, and The Holy Spirit
- What is the “Formation of Conscience?”
- Pope Francis, Kim Davis – and the Primacy of Conscience
- A “Conscience Vote” for Catholics in Irish Referendum!
- For Queer Catholics, Conscience is Key!
- Australian Bishop’s “Case for Gay Marriage”
- Cardinal Schonborn: Same-sex couples also need families
- Cardinal Schonborn, on “Amoris Laetitia”
- Schonborn: “Doctrine is Not a Series of Abstract Statements”
Yet more evidence that in all Christian denominations, LGBT people are making their presence felt, working for inclusion. With her background, Jayne Ozanne will be a formidable campaigner for equality.
She once denied her sexuality, believing that being gay and Christian were incompatible. Like others in the ex – gay movement, she tried to change her sexuality, even resorting to exorcism, but found that denial led to a mental breakdown, and that so – called “conversion therapy” is a charade. She has since come to terms with her sexuality, found that it is indeed possible to be openly both Christian and gay, and will now lead “Accepting Evangelicals”
The Independent has the story:
Jayne Ozanne: Evangelical campaigner comes out
One of the Church of England’s most influential evangelical campaigners, who for years believed it was impossible to be both gay and a Christian, has declared that “God is a God of surprises” as she came out as a lesbian.
As a member of the Archbishops’ Council between 1999 and 2004, Jayne Ozanne held what she called “extremely black and white” views on sexuality and “did not believe it was compatible to be gay and a Christian”.
But yesterday she came out as gay, and was announced as the new director of Accepting Evangelicals, a Christian group aiming to promote “acceptance of faithful, loving same-sex partnerships”.
- Evangelical and inclusive – a welcome shift on homosexuality (morfadulas.com)
Influential Church of England evangelical comes out as gay (Christian Today)
“Healing” is the central them for today’s Mass (5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, year B). This healing can be either physical (as in Mark’s Gospel, where Jesus heals Simon’s mother – in- law, among others, or it can be emotional and spiritual, as clearly expressed in the response to the psalm:
Praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted.
For LGBT Christians, it is this spiritual healing that will have particular relevance. Just like everybody else, we too will have need for physical healing at different times and to varying degrees, but will also have a particular need to be healed from the hurt and pain unnecessarily inflicted on us by some elements of Church teaching, and by some other Christians, in defiance of the clear Gospel message of inclusion and love for all. When we feel hurt in this way, we need to remember that while some people may reject us, God will never do so. When we turn to Him, Christ will indeed “heal the broken- hearted” – and we can receive that healing either by turning to the texts of the Bible (especially the Gospels), which really are “Good news”, as Paul says, or even better, by applying direct, in prayer
There is more to the day’s reading though, than just the reminder of God’s healing for us. There is also an implicit command to take that message, and offer it to others, so that they too may be healed. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul stresses that preaching the gospel is “a duty which has been laid on me”. That duty however is shared by us all, as Pope Frnncis spelled out in “Evangelii Gaudium”.
(Readings for the day:
- First reading: Job 7:1-4,6-7
- Psalm: 146:1-6
- Second reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23
- Gospel Acclamation: Jn8:12 or Mt8:17
- Gospel: Mark 1:29-39 )