02/17/17

The clergy has moved on. It’s the bishops who are out of touch

Synod’s rejection of the same-sex marriage report shows the problem of having glorified administrators focused on unity at the head of the church

A delegate walks past protesters outside the General Synod at Church House in London on Wednesday. ‘The problem is the bishops themselves, tense with self-imposed anxiety.’

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It rained in London on Wednesday afternoon. Then the sun came out. And so it was that when the General Synod of the Church of England met to discuss the acceptability of same-sex marriage, a huge rainbow appeared over Church House, Westminster. Even God, it seems, was making his feelings known on this one.

The bishops had produced a report after a three-year listening process. This itself was just another kicking-into-the-long-grass exercise. After all, who can refuse listening? So church reports that seek no change always call for another report and more listening. But had anybody heard anything useful? The report called for a “change of tone” towards LGBTI people – yes, they always do that, and always in the same patronising tone – but no change of doctrine. The bishops refused to budge on the question of same-sex couples getting married in church. And so the clergy of the C of E threw the report out, leaving the bishops angry and embarrassed.

Recalling the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in the book of Genesis, Canon Simon Butler – gay, out and partnered – told synod: “I will not let go until you bless me.” Those of us wrestling for equal marriage will not stop until gay people are offered the church’s blessing. We bless battleships with missiles. But not the love between two people. And the problem here is not the clergy or the people in the pews. The problem is the bishops themselves, tense with self-imposed anxiety.

On the same day the report was being sunk by synod, a British Social Attitudes survey found that only 17% of Anglicans now believe that same-sex relationships are “always wrong”, the lowest level since 1983 when people started measuring these views. Back then, the figure was 50%. In the intervening years churchgoers, like the population in general, have dramatically changed their mind over homosexuality. And hurrah for that.

But don’t believe that this is all the church wants to talk about. In my parish, it’s a non-issue. We’ve had openly gay clergy ministering here and many gay people in the pews. While the bishops take themselves away to discuss fictional case studies involving problematic gay-related situations (NB don’t say problem gay people – that’s all part of the “change of tone” directive), we in the parish just get on with doing the stuff we’re supposed to. No, the problem is within the episcopate. They voted 43-1 for the report. And the one who voted against wasn’t some brave bishop registering dissent. It was the bishop of Coventry who couldn’t figure out how to work his voting console.

Such is the high degree of corporate responsibility the bishops feel, that even those sympathetic to same-sex marriage voted for a report that condemned it. Thus the bishop of Liverpool wrote: “For some, the sense of betrayal is particularly acute when applied to people like me, who have spoken of the need for change in the church. Where was I? What happened to my voice? How could I have been so weak as to stand with this document?”

The answer is always the same. The job of the bishops, the current lot insist, is to provide a “focus of unity”. That’s why when bishops retire, and are freed from the responsibility of keeping their dioceses together, they write letters to the papers saying how much they disagreed with what they used to have to support. The bishops tell themselves that they sacrifice their personal views for the greater good. And they ask us to feel their pain. Responsibility for the way in which this need for corporate double-speak has blunted the prophetic witness of the episcopate is squarely on the shoulders of the secretive process by which bishops are selected. It’s a process that promotes the same sort of people – glorified administrators who are good at “tone” and are not given to bursts of independent mindedness. None of which are qualities associated with the prophets of the Bible.

What Wednesday’s synod vote revealed was not only that the church continues to move in a progressive direction – though with the engine of a lawnmower and the brakes of an articulated lorry. It also demonstrated the widening gap between bishops and their clergy. The C of E works best at the local level. Head office is out of touch.

Complete Article HERE!

02/5/17

Church ‘regret’ as trainees hold service in gay slang

File Under:  Can Ya Stand IT?

A Church of England theological college has expressed regret after trainee priests held a service in the antiquated gay slang language Polari.

The service at the chapel of Westcott House in Cambridge was to commemorate LGBT history month.

The congregation was told the use of the lexicon was an attempt to “queer the liturgy of evening prayer”.

But officials said it had not been authorised and was at variance with the doctrine and teaching of the church.

Polari is thought to have originated in Victorian London but fell out of use as homosexuality began to be decriminalised in England in the 1960s.

Its words, however, were brought to wider public attention in the same decade by comedian Kenneth Williams in the BBC radio series Round the Horne.

‘Fantabulosa Fairy’

One person present at the service told BBC News it was led by an ordinand – a trainee priest – rather than a licensed minister.

The congregation was also made up of trainees.

While they had been given permission to hold a service to commemorate LGBT history month, a Church of England source said the college chaplain had not seen the wording of the service.

The translation was based on the Polari bible, a work compiled as a project in 2003 by the self-styled Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

The scripture and liturgy were printed on to an order of service.

An Old Testament reading from the Prophet Joel which says “rend your heart and not your garments, return to the Lord your God” was printed in Polari as “rend your thumping chest and not your frocks – and turn unto the Duchess your Gloria: for she is bona and merciful”.

Instead of the traditional “Glory be to the father, and to the son, and the Holy Spirit” the prayer offered was: “Fabeness be to the Auntie, and to the Homie Chavvie, and to the Fantabulosa Fairy”.

‘Hugely regrettable’

Services in the Church of England are legally required to be conducted using the church’s approved liturgy.

The principal of Westcott House, the Rev Canon Chris Chivers, said the liturgy of the service had not been authorised for use.

He said: “I fully recognise that the contents of the service are at variance with the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England and that is hugely regrettable.

“Inevitably for some members of the house this caused considerable upset and disquiet and I have spoken at length to those involved in organising the service.

“I will be reviewing and tightening the internal mechanisms of the house to ensure this never happens again.”

Complete Article HERE!

01/27/17

C of E bishops refuse to change stance on gay marriage

Report says marriage can only be between a man and a woman but says church must stand against homophobia

Bishops have met four times since last July when the two-year process of ‘shared conversations’ on sexuality ended.

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Church of England bishops have upheld traditional teaching that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, in a move that has infuriated campaigners for gay rights and risks further alienating the church from wider society.

After two years of intense internal discussion involving clergy and laity – and at least two decades of bitter division within the church – the bishops have produced a report reaffirming that marriage is “a union permanent and life-long, of one man and one woman”.

The church should not “adapt its doctrine to the fashions of any particular time”, said Graham James, the bishop of Norwich, at a press conference to present the report.

However, church law and guidance should be interpreted to provide “maximum freedom” for gay and lesbian people without a change of doctrine – meaning clergy will have some leeway in individual cases – the report said. “Maximum freedom has no definition but it’s part of this exploration we’re engaged in,” said James.

While calling for a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for lesbians and gays, the report offered no concrete change.

Gay campaigners within the church denounced the report as “cruel” and an “utter failure” that could herald an increase in clerical disobedience over issues around sexuality.

Bishops have met four times since last July, when the two-year process of “shared conversations” on sexuality ended. Their report will be discussed at next month’s synod but no vote will be taken on its substance.

The report suggests that everyone seeking ordination or appointment as bishops should face questions about their lifestyle, irrespective of their personal sexual orientation. At the moment, gay ordinands and clergy are required to commit to celibacy even if they are in long-term relationships.

James denied the bishops were proposing a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. All ordinands and clergy were expected to commit to “fashion [their] own life … according to the way of Christ” but, James said, current questioning was overly focused on sexual activity, with an explicit expectation that gay and lesbian clergy should be celibate.

Instead, “questioning about sexual morality should form a part of a wider examination” or heterosexual and gay ordinands and clergy.

The bishops also say the church needs to repent of homophobic attitudes of the past and stand against homophobia.

Current advice to clergy, which allows them to provide “informal prayers” to same-sex couples in civil partnerships or marriages, should be clarified, the bishops said. However, the report does not propose official church blessings.

The church said the document represented the consensus of opinion among bishops rather than a unanimous view. The bishops also stressed their report was part of a process rather than an attempt at a final resolution.

However, James acknowledged “it’s possible there will never be an end [to the process]”.

He said: “We hope the tone and register of this report will help to commend it, though we recognise it will be challenging reading for some.

“This is no last word on this subject. For there are very different views on same-sex relationships within the church, and within the house of bishops, mainly based on different understandings of how to read scripture.”

At the press conference, the bishop acknowledged the church faced a tension between “fidelity to the scriptures, the traditions … and the culture of our times. This is why it’s such a testing issue for the church to deal with. But I don’t think that if the church adapted its doctrine to the fashions of any particular time, that would mean it would be expressing the historic faith.”

Jayne Ozanne, a prominent campaigner for equality within the C of E, said the report was “unbelievable, unacceptable and ungodly”.

“Being nice to us whilst hitting us is still abuse,” she said, adding: “The nation will look on incredulous, and yet again will recoil from a church that fails to show love or understanding to those it has constantly marginalised and victimised.”

The report “fails to recognise the mounting evidence that was given of the prolonged and institutionalised spiritual abuse that has been meted out against the LGBT community. To demand that they be celibate for life because of their sexual orientation, and to only recognise one interpretation of scripture on the matter is cruel, unjust and ungodly.”

Andrew Foreshew-Cain, a vicar who married his partner in 2014 in defiance of church rules, said the report was an “utter failure of leadership”.

The trust that bishops had demanded from gay and lesbian Christians had been betrayed, he said, adding: “Now it’s time to get on with it ourselves, to start trying to provide what they have failed to provide: a genuine welcome to gay Christians.”

He anticipated an increase in clergy offering de facto services of blessing to same-sex couples in civil partnerships or marriages.

The church said it recognised that some clergy were defying church rules at the moment. “But there’s much less disobedience than people imagine,” said James. “Rebel clergy” would be dealt with on an individual basis by bishops, the church said.

Simon Sarmiento, the chair of the LGBTI Mission, said the key feature of the report was procrastination. But he added: “The bishops’ intent to change the tone of the C of E debate will be a serious challenge for conservative Christians.”

Reform, a conservative organisation within the C of E, said it was grateful that the bishops were not proposing changes to the church’s doctrine of marriage. But it voiced concern about “permitting maximum freedom within this law. In adopting a framework which seeks to take a middle path between biblical truth and cultural sensitivities, the bishops have ensured theological incoherence and hypocrisy will prevail for the foreseeable future.”

Complete Article HERE!

12/21/16

No Shocker for This Gay Ex-Jesuit, Vatican Rejects Gay Priests (Again)

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I am not shocked by the Vatican’s recent affirmation of the 2005 ban on admitting gay men to the priesthood. There’s nothing new here. Despite the media and liberal priests’ attempt to portray the “Who am I to judge?” Pope as gay friendly, the truth is the first Jesuit Pope has turned his back time and again on the LGBT community, let alone the many hundreds of gay priests and thousands of gay priests worldwide.

Francis, who does not usually stamp doctrine with his name, did approve “The Gift of Priestly Vocation,” the most recent document by the Church’s Congregation for the Clergy. The use of the word “gift” in this document’s title suggests again that gay men, and consequently, all lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning men and women do not have gifts and cannot contribute to the spiritual life of their Church.

Whether one considers the papacy of Saint John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, or the Jesuit Francis, the truth is that these men are uncomfortable with accepting God’s plan for creating LGBTQ people in God’s image and likeness. They have returned to warped interpretations of the Hebrew and Christian testaments, they have misused the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. These Popes have redirected the faithful time and again back to the official teaching of the church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They have preferred intolerance, and contradicted their years of mercy, all in an effort to support a medieval theology, one that is neither prudent or befitting the example of Jesus.

While the Pope tackles discernment, the environment, and gender theory, he and his Church remain confused about pressing social issues facing human relationships and human families. Pope Francis supports the flawed thinking that allowing gay men to become priests will have “negative consequences.” Thus, Pope Francis remains especially confused about gay people. But so do many of his cardinals, one who told a gay Jesuit friend of mine that: “I have never met a gay person in my lifetime.” This gay Jesuit was his protégé!

As such, it is no wonder that millennials and other members of our society turn to the Supreme Court of the United States of America for moral guidance, or to Starbucks for communion and table fellowship.

And once again, the authors of “The Gift of Priestly Vocation” erroneously lump gay men and pedophiles together, warning: “The greatest attention must be given to the theme of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults,” and continue: “being vigilant lest those who seek admission to a seminary or a house of formation, or who are already petitioning to receive Holy Orders, have not been involved in any way with any crime or problematic behavior in this area.”

Hasn’t the Church learned enough from this sin?

As a gay Jesuit I lived a celibate life for ten years among many accomplished and critically acclaimed gay priests and brothers, many who worked as, or aspired to work as, theologians, authors, high school presidents and teachers, social workers, therapists, college professors, nurses, doctors, and parish priests.

I lived with these men in community, and served with them in countries like Bolivia, Brazil and the United States of America. Some of these men were afraid of their own shadows, others were hurt by the Church’s millennia of anti-gay theology, but longed for a time when the Church would not contribute to the homeless rate for LGBTQ teens (some 400,000 in America alone). Others sought to work in countries like Russia or Uganda that criminalize same-sex desire, wanting to work as missionaries among sexual minorities.

Without gay Jesuit priests and brothers, who give their time and their talents despite the Church’s demonizing them, Jesuit high schools, universities, clinics and parishes would suffer. Consider more, the countless number of heterosexual couples that these gay Jesuits and other gay priests generally counsel and advise pastorally on how to live and be sacramentally married.

Isn’t it ironic that gay men marry heterosexual couples in Church?

It is sad that these gay Jesuits, including some very influential and very powerful priests, who staff the seminaries in Rome, who are bishops, who speak on television, who counsel our politicians, who work with Hollywood’s elite, are reduced in this recent document to such negative labels: men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” and men who “support the so-called ‘gay culture.”

Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope, who shook the world with his gentleness and humility, is becoming a holy letdown for the most marginalized and the least in the Roman Catholic faith. LGBTQ men, women and children deserve more. That more would be magis, the Jesuit term for exercising deep human relationships, and a term that describes the experience of finding God in all things (aka human flourishing).

To those LGBTQ Christians who were “encouraged” by allies to hope for small change in their Church in their lifetime it is time to discern taking your time and talent and mostly your treasure to another congregation.

These days I pray about what will become of Mother Church when gay men stop hearing God’s call to become priests, and when the LGBTQ community stops helping to rebuild churches, or Catholic institutions with their donations.

Without the many gifts of gay priests and brothers what would become of the likes of St. Ignatius of Loyola (Chestnut Hill), St. Francis Xavier (New York City), DeSmet Jesuit High School (St. Louis), Georgetown (Washington, D.C.) or the Rock Church (Kansas City)?

To those closeted gay priests and seminarians who consecrate the Eucharist and who pray for peace and mercy, the time has come to, as Jesus did, to flip the tables in places of worship, to come out. Be the voices crying out in the wilderness, pray for the courage to virtuously identify yourself as gay, to no longer practice the Church’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Complete Article HERE!

12/12/16

Pope Francis needs his gay Priests

By Irene Monroe

To the shock of many of us LGBT people of faith is the Vatican’s recent decision in the document “The Gift of Priestly Vocation,” to ban gays to the priesthood; thus, reaffirming its 2005 stance.

Those of us who have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” or who “support the so-called ‘gay culture’” are categorically denied to serve one of the church’s most revered and respected posts. And to know that Pope Francis, our LGBT pope- friendly pontiff, approved the document have many of us in disbelief.

We all recall Pope Francis’s remarks when flying home after a weeklong visit to Brazil in 2013 (which set off global shock waves) where the pontiff was queried about the much talked about “gay lobby” in the Vatican.

“When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?”

This public statement is the most LGBT affirmative remarks the world has ever heard from the Catholic Church. In 2013 “The Advocate,” a nationally renowned and respected LGBT ‘zine, named Pope Francis their “Person of the Year.”

Pope Frances’ more liberal-leaning pronouncements, however, don’t match his actions. But, in looking at gay priests within the historical context of the Catholic Church the Pontiff knows that gay priests have always been in the Vatican.

As a matter-of-fact, the homosocial and homosexual milieu of gay priests have always been part and parcel of the life and operations of the Vatican as well as the Catholic Church for centuries. Their strength to come-out now as a formidable force within the hallowed walls of the Vatican is laudable on the one hand, and a liability on the other hand—especially in terms of casting a gay suspicion on all priests as well as the potential to expose those priests who want to remain in the closet.

The Catholic Church needs its gay priests

The Rev. Donald B. Cozens, author of “The Changing Face of the Priesthood,” wrote that with more than half the priests and seminarians being gay, the priesthood is becoming a gay profession. Many who know the interior of the Catholic Church would argue that the priesthood has for centuries been a gay profession, and not to ordain gay priests or to defrock them would drastically alter the spiritual life and daily livelihood of the church.

“If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented, the number would be so staggering that it would be like an atomic bomb; it would do damage to the church’s operation,” says A.W. Richard Sipe, a former priest and psychotherapist who has been studying the sexuality of priests for decades. Sipe also points out that to do away with gay priests “would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world. And it’s very much against the tradition of the church; many saints have gay orientation and many popes had gay orientations.”

The reality here is that as quietly as the Church has tried to keep it, the Catholic Church is a gay institution. And that is not a bad thing!

The problem in the Catholic Church is not its gay priests, and its solution to the problem is not the removal of them. The problem in the Catholic Church is its transgressions against them. And I ask: Who will remove the church from itself?

Years of homophobic church doctrine have made the church unsafe for us all- young and old, straight and LGBT, adult and child.

Eugene Kennedy, a specialist on sexuality and the priesthood and a former priest, wrote in his book, “The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality, that the Catholic Church ” . . .had always had gay priests, and they have often been models of what priests should be. To say that these men should be kept from the priesthood is in itself a challenge to the grace of God and an insult to them and the people they serve.”

Supporters and activists of the “gay lobby” in the Curia emphatically state that this brave and visible group is essential to the running of the Vatican as well as protecting themselves from the church’s hypocrisy in scapegoating them for many of the social ills of the church.

Pope Francis knows this which is one of the reasons he has commented disapprovingly about the political and activist clout the powerful “gay lobby” has in the Curia, the Vatican’s secretive administration.

“The problem is not having this orientation. The problem is lobbying by this orientation…Being gay is a tendency. The problem is the lobby,” the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Pope Frances saying a press conference during his trip to Brazil in July.

Right now, the Catholic Church stands in the need of prayer and the Pontiff knows it. Francis aptly stated in his a December 2013 interview with 16 Jesuit magazines that “the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards” should the Catholic Church, in this 21st Century, continue on it anti-modernity trek like his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Sadly, this pope is like the previous one when it comes to upholding church doctrine, but with a more friendlier and pastoral facade.

Shame on the church’s continued opposition to gay priests in light of its history, reality, and of the gifts they have given and continue to give to the Catholic Church.

Complete Article HERE!