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”.


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.

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LGBTQ-Friendly Votes Signal Progressive Shift for Methodists

A gay pride rainbow flag flies with the US flag in front of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, Kan., on April 19, 2019.

The United Methodist Church moved toward becoming more progressive and LGBTQ-affirming during U.S. regional meetings this month that included the election of its second openly gay bishop. Conservatives say the developments will only accelerate their exit from one of the nation’s largest Protestant denominations.

Each of the UMC’s five U.S. jurisdictions — meeting separately in early November — approved similarly worded measures aspiring to a future church where “LGBTQIA+ people will be protected, affirmed, and empowered.”

They also passed non-binding measures asking anyone to withdraw from leadership roles if they’re planning to leave the denomination soon — a category that almost entirely includes conservatives moving toward the exits.

The denomination still officially bans same-sex marriage and the ordination of any “self-avowed, practicing homosexual,” and only a legislative gathering called the General Conference can change that.

But this month’s votes show growing momentum — at least in the American half of the global church — to defy these policies and seek to reverse them at the next legislative gathering in 2024.

Supporters and opponents of these measures drew from the same metaphor to say their church is either becoming more or less of a “big tent,” as the United Methodists have long been described as a theologically diverse, mainstream denomination.

“It demonstrates that the big tent has collapsed,” said the Rev. Jay Therrell, president of the conservative Wesleyan Covenant Association, which has been helping churches that want to leave the denomination.

“For years, bishops have told traditionalists that there is room for everyone in the United Methodist Church,” he said. “Not one single traditionalist bishop was elected. Moreover, we now have the most progressive or liberal council of bishops in the history of Methodism, period.”

But Jan Lawrence, executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network, which works toward inclusion of Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities, applauded the regional jurisdictions. She cited their LGBTQ-affirming votes and their expansion of the racial, ethnic and gender diversity of bishops.

Jurisdictions elected the church’s first Native American and Filipino American bishops, with other landmark votes within specific regions, according to United Methodist News Service.

Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth addresses the delegates, guests and his new episcopal colleagues, shortly after his election on Nov. 4, 2022, at Christ United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City.

“It is a big tent church,” Lawrence said. “One of the concerns that some folks expressed is that we don’t have leadership in the church that reflects the diversity of the church. So, this episcopal election doesn’t fix that, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth, elected in the Western Jurisdiction meeting, agreed. He is the first openly gay African American man to be elected bishop. The vote comes six years after the Western Jurisdiction elected the denomination’s first openly lesbian bishop, Karen Oliveto of the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area.

The LGBTQ-affirming resolutions point “to the alignment of the denomination more with the mainstream of our country,” Bridgeforth said. “It can also help us begin to center our conversations where we have unity of purpose, rather than centering on divisions.”

Bridgeforth will lead churches in the Greater Northwest Area, which includes churches in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and small parts of Montana and Canada. He said he has always worked across ideological lines in his administrative duties and would continue to do so.

“I have used our differences as an opportunity for us to come together,” he said. “It creates more space for a different kind of conversation than, ‘That’s different, that’s bad, we can’t be together.'” If some churches under his jurisdiction do choose to leave the United Methodist Church, Bridgeforth said he would help them make that transition.

“I would not want anybody to be where they don’t want to be,” he said.

Progressive groups have said the church should be open to appointing bishops and other clergy, regardless of sexual orientation, who show they have the gifts for ministry and a commitment to serve the church.

Conservatives, however, say the church needs to abide by its own rules.

“I am sure Bishop Bridgeforth is a person of sacred worth, but he does not meet the qualifications to hold the office of elder, much less bishop, and should not have been elected,” Therrell said.

At least 300 U.S. congregations have left the denomination this year, according to United Methodist News Service. Hundreds more are in the process of leaving, and Therrell predicted that number would be in the low thousands by the end of 2023. Overseas conferences in Bulgaria and Slovakia have ended their affiliation with the denomination, and churches in Africa are considering it, he said.

Many are bound for the newly formed conservative denomination, the Global Methodist Church.

The UMC is a worldwide denomination. American membership has declined to about 6.5 million, from a peak of 11 million in the 1960s. Overseas membership soared to match or exceed that of the U.S., fueled mostly by growth and mergers in Africa. Overseas delegates have historically allied with American conservatives to uphold the church’s stances on sexuality.

Support for a compromise measure that would have amicably split the denomination, negotiated in 2020, fell apart after that year’s legislative General Conference was postponed three times due to the pandemic. The next General Conference is now scheduled to begin in April 2024 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A vote by a 2019 General Conference was the latest of several in recent decades that reinforced the church’s ban on gay clergy and marriage. But that vote also prompted many local conferences to elect more liberal and centrist delegates, whose influence was felt in this month’s regional votes.

Complete Article HERE!

Church of England should allow same-sex marriage, says Bishop of Oxford

Steven Croft apologises for church’s history on LGBTQ+ rights, but calls for ‘love and respect for those who take different views’

Croft apologised for the church’s stance on gay relationships, specifically their slowness to ‘reach better decisions and practice on these matter’.


The Church of England should allow same-sex marriage for congregation and clergy, the Bishop of Oxford has said, becoming the most senior figure to weigh in on the subject.

The Rt Rev Dr Steven Croft also acknowledged the “acute pain and distress of LGBTQ+ people in the life of the church”, and apologised for his own views being “slow to change”.

But he said there must be a discourse into how the church tackles the subject in future. “Any settlement must be founded on love and respect: love and respect for LGBTQ+ people and their families within and beyond the church, love and respect for those who take different views,” he added.

In a 52-page essay, Croft apologised for the church’s stance on gay relationships, specifically their slowness to “reach better decisions and practice on these matters”.

But the bishop also said clergy must be able to refuse to opt in to any new arrangements, saying that it should be recognised that keeping a “traditional view of marriage and human sexuality” is a “legitimate and honourable position”.

Croft’s statement is significant in light of the current laws which prevents ministers of the Church of England from carrying out same-sex marriages.

In the piece, Croft said: “I need to acknowledge, right at the beginning of this essay, the acute pain and distress of LGBTQ+ people in the life of the church.

“I am sorry that, corporately, we have been so slow as a church to reach better decisions and practice on these matters. I am sorry that my own views were slow to change and that my actions, and lack of action, have caused genuine hurt, disagreement and pain. I remain on a very steep learning curve.

“Listening to this pain and distress has been key in my own journey and to the changes in my own views.”

The bishop added that he wanted to see the removal of the legal barriers preventing gay marriage within the church and would like public services of blessings to take place regarding gay marriage in churches.

The essay also asserted that clergy should have the freedom of conscience to enter their own same-sex marriages.

Speaking of those he described as holding “more conservative positions”, he said he did not want to see people feeling excluded as a result of any changes.

He wrote: “They are sisters and brothers in Christ. It would be a tragedy if a journey towards inclusion for one group of Christians became an experience of exclusion for another.”

Bishops are considering whether to recommend any changes to teachings on same-sex relationships this week before the General Synod in February – where there could be a vote after decades of divisive talk.

Their proposals are due by the end of the year, with signs of an opt-out conscience clause for orthodox clergy.

Croft is the only serving C of E bishop or archbishop to publicly call for such a change, although Anglican churches in Scotland have begun same-sex services.

In August, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, affirmed the validity of a declaration made in 1998 that gay sex was a sin, but said he would not seek to discipline C of E churches that would conduct or bless same-sex marriages.

Complete Article HERE!

SBC President Bart Barber Tells Anderson Cooper Gays ‘Can’t Be Good Christians,’

— Reiterates Church’s Same-Sex Marriage Stance

By Berlin Flores

Bart Barber, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), said in a recent interview with Anderson Cooper that gay people could not be good Christians.

Based on a report by PinkNews, Barber made the statement during a CBS 60 Minutes interview hosted by veteran journalist Cooper on Oct. 9, Sunday.

‘Good Christians Cannot Identify as Gay”

During the one-on-one interview, Cooper asked Barber if an individual could be an SBC member, a good Christian, and identify as LGBTQ+ at the same time. Barber emphatically answered, “No.”

I believe that sinners should be converted out of being sinners. And that applies to all of us. We’re committed to the idea of gender as a gift from God. We’re committed to the idea that men and women ought to be united with one another in marriage,” PinkNews quoted Barber saying.

The SBC president made the comment also as a way of explaining why the Baptist congregation is firmly against marriage between individuals of the same sex.

SBC’s Stand on Abortion

Aside from stressing the church’s view on same-sex marriage and Christians identifying as LGBTQ+, Barber explained SBC’s stand on abortion.

He said that the Baptist church takes an interest in the topic “not to police everybody’s sex life,” but because it thinks “that’s a human person who deserves to live.”

>Barber also addressed the statement made by Lauren Baubert that the church should guide the government in stopping legal abortions. The SBC president told Cooper that ‘the Baptist’s 400-year history runs contrary to Christian Nationalism.’

About Barber and the SBC

According to the website, Barber became the head of the SBC on June 14, 2022, following his victory over Tom Ascol for the SBC presidency. Barber reportedly gained at least 61% of the votes cast during the elections.

The article noted that Barber’s comments on various socio-political matters (including abortion and same-sex marriage) run consistently with the predominant beliefs of the Southern Baptist Convention. PinkNews said SBC maintains the LGBTQ+ community is “inherently sinful.”

Barber told Cooper he ran for SBC presidency because ‘God called him up to lead at this moment so Southern Baptists could move forward.’

According to the website, the anti-LGBTQ+, ultra-conservative SBC is not without its share of controversies, particularly allegations of sexual abuse by its church leaders.

PinkNews noted that in February 2019, a joint organization investigation uncovered more than 700 alleged victims of sex abuse by 400 Southern Baptist Church leaders. The San Antonio Express and the Houston Chronicle were among the investigation committee members.

The website disclosed that the church leadership waited for at least four months before forming an investigation committee and condemning the sexual abuse allegations against some of their leaders.

Consequently, the church leadership admitted in August this year that they are facing a federal investigation into the abuse allegations. The announcement came following several accusations and leaks that painted a mishandling of the church’s probe into the sexual abuse reports.

Complete Article HERE!

Ex-gay monk has a dream wedding after being forced out of the Catholic Church

Anselm Bilgri

Anselm Bilgri, a former gay monk who left the Roman Catholic Church, says he would like same-sex marriages to “become normal” by marrying his longtime partner. (YouTube/Reuters)

Anselm Bilgri, a former gay monk who left the Roman Catholic Church, married his longtime partner in a beautiful ceremony.

Bilgri was ordained in 1980 by Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 and served as head of the Roman Catholic Church until February 2013. He was a Benedictine monk for decades.

Bilgri, now 68, left the Catholic Church in 2020 because he was frustrated with the Church’s inability to keep up with the times due to its stance on same-sex marriage. He was also among several figures who left the Catholic Church in Germany following abuse scandals.

Bilgri married partner Markus Achter, 41, in a beautiful ceremony in a Munich church on October 8 by a priest from the Old Catholic Church. The Old Catholic Church allows priests to marry and approves same-sex relationships.

The couple say Reuters that they hoped their marriage would help normalize LGBTQ+ relationships and same-sex marriages.

“I immediately thought: now I have actually received the seven sacraments, from ordination to marriage,” Bilgri said. “And I would like it to become normal.”

He continued, “It goes without saying that two men, two women… It doesn’t always have to have a sexual connotation.

“Maybe they just want to support and help each other. People who want to belong together, which is also a form of love, let that become normal and possible.

Bilgri ran the brewery of a Munich monastery before becoming the prior of Andechs Abbey, where Benedictine monks have worked and prayed on Bavaria’s “holy mountain” for hundreds of years.

The former gay monk converted to the Old Catholic Church and serves as a priest in the community in Germany

Achter thought their marriage was a “very big sign” that same-sex marriages were “becoming more normal”.

“I think that’s a really big sign and it’s also becoming more normal because you often think it’s not extraordinary when you live in an environment like Munich,” Achter said. “But it’s not that normal, and it’s still something extraordinary when two men get married.”

Achter continued, “And I always think that if it becomes more and more obvious, then at some point it won’t be something special anymore.

“And that’s where we actually want to go and maybe we put a sign for that today.”

Pope Francis ended all hope of same-sex marriages in the Catholic Church when he declared in 2021 that the Church “has no power to change the sacraments”.

“I spoke about it clearly, didn’t I? said Francois. “Marriage is a sacrament. Marriage is a sacrament. The church does not have the power to change the sacraments. It is as our Lord has established.

In September, a group of Roman Catholic bishops from Belgium challenged the Vatican and allowed same-sex union blessings. The Flemish bishops said the blessing – which includes a ritual of prayers and a pledge by the couple to be faithful to each other – is part of a “welcoming church that excludes no one”.

Complete Article HERE!