Church of England bishops refuse to back gay marriage

— The Church of England has been debating the issue for years

By Harry Farley

Church of England bishops have refused to back a change in teaching to allow priests to marry same-sex couples, sources have told BBC News.

They met on Tuesday to finalise their recommendations after five years of consultation and debate on the Church’s position on sexuality.

Their proposal will be debated at the Church’s equivalent of a parliament – the General Synod – next month.

BBC News spoke to several bishops present at the meeting who said the Church’s teaching that Holy Matrimony is only between one man and one woman would not change and would not be put to a vote.

But the Church confirmed “prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God’s blessing” on same-sex couples will be offered following a civil marriage or partnership.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in England and Wales since 2013. But when the law changed, the Church did not change its teaching.

In 2017, the Church of England began an extended consultation period called “Living in Love and Faith”.

In November last year, the Bishop of Oxford became the most senior Church of England bishop to publicly back a change in the Church’s teaching. Although a handful of others supported him, they remained in the minority.

The refusal to propose a vote on allowing same-sex marriage is likely to anger campaigners for change within the Church.

Some have already told BBC News they will ask the synod to strike out the bishops’ proposals next month.

‘Prayers for God’s blessing’

The bishops’ decision puts the Church of England at odds with its Anglican equivalent in Scotland, The Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, which both allow same-sex weddings.

The Anglican Church in Wales has provided an authorised service of blessing for gay couples but does not allow same-sex weddings in church.

English bishops will recommend that some “prayers for God’s blessing” for gay couples in civil marriages be adopted, the BBC expects.

A controversial church document from 1991 that says clergy in same-sex relationships must remain celibate will be scrapped. And the Church will also issue an apology for the way it has excluded LGBT+ people, BBC News was told by several bishops.

One liberal bishop present at the meeting said there had been “substantial progress”.

“It’s evolutionary,” they said. “It’s not the end of the road.”

A conservative bishop said: “We’re being honest about the fact we’re not of one mind in these issues. But we’re not going to give up walking together.”

‘Deep disappointment’

Charlie Bell, a young man in a priest's dog collar poses for a picture with his partner Piotr, who wears glasses
Charlie Bell (right) and his partner Piotr said they would continue to campaign for the Church to change its teaching on marriage

Charlie Bell, 33, and his partner Piotr Baczyk, 27, live in south east London, where Charlie is a priest. They have been waiting to marry until the church allows gay weddings.

He said they felt a “deep disappointment” that the bishops weren’t proposing a vote on same-sex marriages.

“It leaves same-sex couples in a bit of a limbo and also as second-class citizens,” he told BBC News.

“We’re still saying to gay couples that their relationships are less than relationships between people of opposite sexes.”

However, he said they would continue to campaign for the Church to change its teaching on marrying gay couples.

He said: “This isn’t over. If the bishops think this will resolve the current situation they are very much mistaken.”

The Archbishop of York, the Most Rev’d Stephen Cottrell, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme a friend who was gay had died before he was able to have his civil partnership acknowledged in any way by the Church.

“All that now changes,” he said. “For the first time, people in same-sex marriages, in civil partnerships, they can come to the Church, their relationships can be acknowledged, dedicated, they can receive God’s blessing.

“No, it’s not same-sex marriage, it’s not everything that everybody wants.”

But he said it was a “real step forward” for the Church.

“What I want to emphasise is that with these proposals, people who have entered into a same-sex marriage or who are in a civil partnership will be welcomed into the Church at a service of dedication and acknowledgment of that relationship,” he said. “That is a change from where we are at the moment.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev’d Justin Welby, said the position “reflects the diversity of views in the Church of England on questions of sexuality”.

He said: “I am under no illusions that what we are proposing today will appear to go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others, but it is my hope that what we have agreed will be received in a spirit of generosity, seeking the common good.

“Most of all I hope it can offer a way for the Church of England, publicly and unequivocally, to say to all Christians and especially LGBTQI+ people that you are welcome and a valued and precious part of the body of Christ.”

Complete Article HERE!

Episcopal bishop facing fight over election promises to allow gay marriage if consecrated

The Rev. Charlie Holt, a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, giving remarks in at an event held in May 2022.

By Michael Gryboski

An Episcopal priest whose election to bishop is being challenged has promised that, if put in power, he will allow for the blessing of same-sex unions in the diocese.

The Rev. Charlie Holt was twice elected bishop coadjutor for the Episcopal Diocese of Florida this year, only to have both election results formally challenged by delegates.

Holt released a statement on Tuesday regarding whether he would allow the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of people in same-sex relationships since one reported issue some have with the bishop-elect is his opposition to same-sex marriage.

“To unite with one another and the broader Episcopal Church, we must contend together to move beyond the things that divide us and set a new course in Christian discipleship, congregational renewal and community outreach,” stated Holt.

Holt explained that he would allow “each parish” to decide whether to bless same-sex unions, making it “a matter of conscience and context” in which gay marriage opponents should be respected.

“The pastoral conscience of clergy will be respected across theological difference. No one, progressive or traditional, will be forced, coerced or manipulated to hold or change a matter of conscience,” he said.

Holt added that “potential ordinands and candidates for employment will be welcomed into discernment and calling processes based on their gifts and call to ministry without discrimination.”

“We seek ministers who proclaim a life-changing gospel. Ordination will not be dependent on sexual orientation or political perspective but only on the church’s canonical process of discernment of the mystery of God’s call to sacred orders,” he continued.

For years, several dioceses of The Episcopal Church, including the Florida Diocese, were allowed to prohibit the blessing of gay unions if their diocesan leadership was opposed to it.

However, in 2018, the Episcopal Church General Convention passed Resolution B012, which required all dioceses to allow for same-sex unions, albeit with certain conscience protections for clergy opposed to gay marriage.

Holt cited Resolution B012 in his statement as authoritative, explaining that the conscience protections he was advocating are “in keeping with the spirit and intent of” the resolution.

“I would welcome the opportunity to implement these policies utilizing a collegial process.  I am excited to begin a new era in the Diocese of Florida,” he added.

In May, Holt won an election to determine a successor to the diocese’s current bishop coadjutor, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Howard, who intends to retire next year.

However, a group of 37 clergy and lay deputies argued that the vote was invalid, citing last-minute changes to the voting process and other complications.

In response, The Episcopal Church’s Court of Review investigated the process and filed a report in early August that concluded that Holt’s election had been improperly conducted.

“There is no doubt that the Diocese moved forward in a good faith effort to confront this last-minute challenge. However, as will be shown herein — and as was pointed out to the Diocesan leadership at the time — their decision to convene the Convention without a proper clergy quorum was procedurally and canonically problematic,” reads the report, in part.

“As a result of that decision procedural norms were changed on the fly, and irregularities occurred. It is impossible to say whether any particular irregularity made a material impact on the outcome; however, when taken together these irregularities create seeds of uncertainty that call into question the integrity of the process.”

A second bishop-coadjutor election was held in November, with Holt again winning with a vote of 56 clergy and 79 laity. The minimum needed to win was 56 clergy and 67 laity.

However, a group of 29 clergy and lay delegates who participated in the election disputed the results, arguing that the process was “fundamentally unfair” and included issues like unfairly excluding certain clergy delegates.

The 29 delegates protesting the second election for bishop coadjutor have passed the 25-delegate minimum required to file a formal objection against the results.

Complete Article HERE!

Proud U.S. Catholics celebrate the Respect for Marriage Act, and they want more

By Lana Leonard

Roman Catholic organizations celebrate the Respect for Marriage Act signing into law by recognizing the values of family and equality shared between Catholicism and the LGBTQ community.

Organizations like New Ways Ministry, DignityUSA, and religious leaders like Father James Martin speak to that strength through shared values, while advocating for the LGBTQ community and wanting more from equality. All these people and organizations have worked with GLAAD to advance LGBTQ acceptance within the Roman Catholic Church.

Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry, a 45-year old national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT people and the church, reminds the people that even Pope Francis has said that LGBTQ couples deserve protections.

“Catholics want same-gender couples to receive the same societal protections and benefits that opposite-sex couples enjoy. Family stability and equality are strong Catholic values,” said DeBarnardo in a press release.

DeBernardo also says that two Catholic politician powershouses heralded RFMA into law.

“We are particularly proud that this bill was shepherded through the House of Representatives by a Catholic, Honorable Nancy Pelosi. That it was signed into law by a Catholic, President Joe Biden, is an even greater reason to be proud.  They are leaders who have imbibed Catholic Social Teaching, and their beliefs in the human dignity and equality of all people are inscribed in this Act,”  the New Ways Ministry executive director said.

Catholic support in today’s LGBTQ current events sheperds a new layer of hope among advocates in a time of religious extremism against LGBTQ communities and couples.

The US Conference for Catholic Bishops believes the Act works to slice away at religious freedom. “Obergefell created countless religious liberty conflicts, but the Act offers only limited protections,” said Chieko Noguchi of the USCCB Public Affairs Office in a statement. “Those protections fail to resolve the main problem with the Act: in any context in which conflicts between religious beliefs and same-sex civil marriage arise, the Act will be used as evidence that religious believers must surrender to the state’s interest in recognizing same-sex civil marriage.”

However, to DeBernardo this is the perfect time for the Catholic hierarchy, for bishops, for USCCB, to open up to the long-requested, and long overdue dialogue about equality for LGBTQ people.

“The Catholic bishops’ opposition is based on the idea that the bill does not provide enough religious exemptions, yet other religious leaders, legal analysts, and politicians who value faith are confident that the bill protects religious institutions,” said DeBernardo.

Some conservative Christian denominations like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Seventh Day Adventists have come to support laws like RFMA. They aren’t the only ones.

Over the last six years from 2015 to 2021 diverse support among various religions have increased their acceptance for LGBTQ legal protections, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

Of all Americans 79% are in favor of LGBTQ protections. As for Catholics of color the support for LGBTQ protections has increased by 16% since 2015 (87%), Latine Catholic support has grown 8% with 83% in favor of LGBTQ protections, with white Catholics showing 7% growth at 80% in favor of LGBTQ protections, according to PRRI research.

The growing support shows as DignityUSA, the nation’s foremost organization of Catholics working for justice, equality, and full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in our church and society, believes the RFMA affirms that the majority of US Catholics of all political affiliations believe that same-sex marriage should be a legal right.

Yet, Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, believes that this isn’t a complete victory.

“Moreover, it fails to address the ongoing inequities, legal and cultural, that continue to push LGBTQIA+ people and people of color out of the center of many communities.

“Indeed, DignityUSA is deeply concerned that the final version of the Respect for Marriage Act will in some ways actually work to perpetuate the inequity that interracial and same-sex couples have long experienced in our country,” said Duddy-Burke in a press release.

Unfortunately the RFMA comes to Pres. Biden’s desk under the fear that interracial marriages and LGBTQ marriages are threatened by the current Supreme Court majority. Many are preparing for Obergefell v. Hodges to be overturned, in turn, resulting in LGBTQ and interracial marriages a state-by-state issue. RFMA allows for couples to travel to states where it’s legal to  marry with nationwide recognition regardless of the state law of a couples’ home states.

Ross Murray, Vice President of the GLAAD Media Institute, and a deacon in an Evangelical Lutheran Church, told the National Catholic Reporter that the fear of Obergefell overturning makes the Respect for Marriage Act’s passing as imperative as it is.

“Knowing that we have heard justices signal their intent to want to review and potentially roll back protections for LGBTQ Americans is what made this legislation so incredibly important,” said Murray.

However, Murray also notes that the implementation of religious freedom was important to the political process.

Sec. 6 No Impact on Religious Liberty or Conscience of RFMA protects religious groups who oppose LGBTQ marriage from having to provide “any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.” Additionally, the law prevents churches and religious nonprofits that decline recognition of LGBTQ marriages from having their tax-exemption status revised or revoked.

This amendment is what DignityUSA deems as a partial victory, and uplifts what USCCB thinks of as a compromise to religious freedom. That is, wherever religious freedom has power, it will be used to take away the freedom of LGBTQ people, and not only in marriage, but in day-to-day life.

Father James Martin used this moment in history to uplift Catholic values in support of LGBTQ people.

“Never forget that both John the Baptist and Jesus sided with the poor, the marginalized and the disenfranchised,” Father Martin wrote on Twitter yesterday.

While the LGBTQ community continues to fight for equality, the community advocacy will carry on into a new chapter of policy: the Equality Act.

Complete Article HERE!

How German Catholics pushed Church’s slow reforms

— The Catholic Church in Germany is changing to allow gays and divorcees to join its workforce of 800,000. But the reform does not go far enough for everyone.

by Christoph Strack

It’s an issue that affected the head doctor of a Catholic hospital, who was divorced and wanted to remarry; and the director of a church-run kindergarten, who entered into a same-sex partnership.

Both were dismissed by their employer, the Catholic Church in Germany. That sparked outrage among many German Catholics, who felt the church line made it look hard-hearted and at odds with today’s social norms.

Now, after repeated consultations, Catholic bishops in the country have decided to liberalize regulations covering the approximately 800,000 people who work for the Catholic Church in Germany.

“The core area of private life, in particular relationship life and the intimate sphere, remains separate from legal evaluations,” the announcement stated. In other words, what happens in employees’ bedrooms is outside the Church’s remit.

Reforms in the Church have been driven by the churchgoers
Reforms in the Church have been driven by the churchgoers rather than politicians

More liberal labor laws

The two major churches in Germany, Catholic and Protestant, form the country’s second largest employer after the public authorities. Together, they employ about 1.3 million people, and have their own church labor laws.

But why does the Catholic Church have the right to set its own guidelines for employees in the first place? This is set out in Germany’s constitution, the Basic Law, which grants religious and ideological communities extensive self-determination, including in service or labor law. In past decades, none of the major political parties in Germany wanted to restrict or abolish these provisions of the Basic Law.

That makes it noteworthy that the Catholic bishops are now changing important aspects of their labor laws of their own accord. The pressure came from employees and potential employees, for whom the Church had become an unattractive employer.

Above all, pressure grew from the Church’s base in Germany. Last year, Catholic Church workers caused a stir with an initiative entitled #OutInChurch, which earned support from many church organizations, politicians, and other social groups.

Church employees, including the clergy, came out as queer and pushed for recognition. Many risked losing their jobs, which is why some chose to remain anonymous. But the mood was changing. Some bishops also expressed respect for the initiative and announced that they would no longer fire anyone in their diocese because of their sexual orientation.

The Church’s ‘reform engine’

The “synodal path,” an assembly of lay people and bishops still working to confront abuse scandals and bring the Church closer to contemporary society, discussed the topic and made new demands regarding church labor law. Marc Frings, secretary general of the highest Catholic lay body, the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), described the “synodal path” as “the engine of urgently needed reforms.”

Now many in the Church are eager to see how implementation will take place. The Bishops’ Conference can decide on a new labor law, and each individual bishop in the 27 dioceses is responsible for implementing — or ignoring — the rules in his diocese. Experts believe that several more conservative bishops might refrain from implementing it.

Among the dioceses that promptly announced they would stand behind the new labor law were Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki’s Archdiocese of Cologne and Bishop Stefan Oster’s Diocese of Passau. Other dioceses, such as Regensburg and Augsburg in Bavaria, have been more reticent.

‘Discrimination remains’

Not everyone has joined the jubilation over the bishops’ change of heart. Würzburg University Pastor Burkhard Hose, for example, still sees “a lot of room for episcopal arbitrariness.” The new labor law, for example, states that “anti-clerical behavior” can be grounds for dismissal, but it does not specify what this might mean, leaving each bishop to interpret it for himself.

German Anti-discrimination Commissioner Ferda Ataman speaks at Christopher Street Day 2022 Berlin,
German Anti-discrimination Commissioner Ferda Ataman has also been calling for more reforms

Jens Ehebrecht-Zumsande, an employee in the Archdiocese of Hamburg and, along with Hose, one of the initiators of the #OutInChurch campaign, has criticized the fact that the new guidelines are based on a “binary gender model …. according to which there are only women and men.” Trans or non-binary people have not been taken into account, he argued.

The German government’s anti-discrimination commissioner, Ferda Ataman, also weighed in, calling for the abolition of all exemptions, except for the clergy. Only that, she said, would protect people like the doctor or the kindergarten teacher who, even under the new regulation, may be fired if they leave the Church.

In general, the federal government lets the actions of the churches pass with little comment.

For Marc Frings, the new labor law is an encouragement for the laity within the churches. He says it is evident from the new labor law “that change and reform come from below.”

Without the #OutInChurch campaign and “engaged Catholic civil society,” we would not be at the current stage of reform, he argues. “This is how we learn that our actions and discussions can have immediate consequences,” he said.

Further reform issues are awaiting action in March 2023, when a final round of the “synodal path” will address, among other things, the demand for equal rights for men and women in the Church.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican urges German Catholic Church to put brakes on reform

FILE – The chairman of the Catholic German Bishops Conference, Cardinal Georg Baetzing, speaks to the media in Bonn, Germany, Feb. 25, 2021. Top Vatican cardinals called for pause in the on the German Catholic Church’s controversial reform process during an unusual Vatican summit Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, fearing proposals concerning gays, women and sexual morals will split the church. Bishop Georg Baetzing, who heads the German bishops conference, explained the work undertaken so far, stressing that it was based on listening to the “people of God and the pain over abuses committed by clergy”.

By NICOLE WINFIELD

Top Vatican cardinals tried to put the brakes on the German Catholic Church’s controversial reform process Friday, fearing proposals concerning gays, women and sexual morals will split the church and insisting they would be better debated later.

The Vatican and the German bishops conference issued a joint statement after a week of meetings that culminated with an unusual summit between the 62 German bishops and top Vatican officials, including the No. 2 secretary of state, the head of the bishops’ office and the head of the doctrine office.

The pope, who met separately with the German bishops on his own on Thursday, was originally supposed to attend Friday’s summit but did not, leaving it to his cardinals to toe the Vatican line.

Germany’s church launched a reform process with the country’s influential lay group to respond to the clergy sexual abuse scandals, after a report in 2018 found at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014. The report found that the crimes were systematically covered up by church leaders and that there were structural problems in the way power was exercised that “favored sexual abuse of minors or made preventing it more difficult.”

Preliminary assemblies have already approved calls to allow blessings for same-sex couples, married priests and the ordination of women as deacons. One has also called for church labor law to be revised so that gay employees don’t face the risk of being fired.

The German “Synodal Path” has sparked fierce resistance inside Germany and beyond, primarily from conservatives opposed to opening any debate on such hot-button issues and warning that the German reforms, if ultimately approved in the final stage, could lead to schism.

Such warnings were echoed by Vatican Cardinals Marc Ouellet, in charge of bishops, and Cardinal Luis Ladaria, in charge of doctrine, in the meeting Friday.

According to the joint statement, they “spoke with frankness and clarity about the concerns and reservations of the methodology, content and proposals of the Synodal Path and proposed, for the sake of unity of the church,” that they be dealt with later, when the global Catholic Church takes up such issues in a universal way next year.

The statement said a “moratorium” was proposed, but was rejected.

Francis has since launched a global “synodal path” which involves soliciting input from lay Catholics around the globe that has echoed many of the same themes as the German process, including the role of women in the church and homosexuality. But there is no indication the global church is prepared to go as far as the German church in pressing for change.

Francis, for his part, has personally intervened on the German process and recently pointed to a 2019 letter he wrote to the German faithful as summarizing all he has to say on the matter. In that letter, Francis offered support for the process but warned church leaders against falling into the temptation of change for the sake of adaptation to particular groups or ideas.

Bishop Georg Baetzing, who heads the German bishops conference, for his part, explained the work undertaken so far, stressing that it was based on listening to the “people of God and the pain over abuses committed by clergy,” the statement said.

Baetzing is scheduled to give a press conference on Saturday.

Complete Article HERE!