Gay blessings to be offered at Canterbury Cathedral

Same-sex couples already in civil partnerships[1] or civil marriages, or who have sealed a covenanted friendship, can now be offered Prayers of Love and Faith at Canterbury Cathedral, following a unanimous decision by the Dean and governing Chapter. This step has already been taken by many churches and cathedrals.

These prayers will be offered within regular services of public worship for same-sex couples who love one another and who wish to give thanks for and mark that love in faith before God, and who are part of the Cathedral community. Those eligible to ask for these prayers include our regular congregations, those living in Cathedral properties adjacent to the Cathedral, and those with a strong pastoral connection to the Cathedral community from amongst our staff, clergy, and volunteers.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Revd Justin Welby, and the Bishop of Dover, The Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who have no direct role in the Governance of the Cathedral, were consulted, following the guidance commended by the Bishops of the Church of England in December 2023.

It is not currently possible to hold stand-alone services of blessing, same-sex weddings, or civil partnerships.

[1] A civil partnership is a legal relationship which can be registered by two people who aren’t related to each other. Civil partnerships are available to both same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples (see Citizens Advice website)

FAQs

Why is Canterbury Cathedral offering Prayers of Love and Faith?

On 12th December 2023, the Church of England’s House of Bishops commended the Prayers of Love and Faith and associated pastoral guidance for use in regular public worship services with effect from Sunday 17th December 2023. Since this decision, Canterbury Cathedral has – like every other Church of England cathedral and church – been free to choose whether or not to offer Prayers of Love and Faith.

Following discussion, Canterbury Cathedral’s Dean and governing Chapter decided unanimously to offer Prayers of Love and Faith.

How can I enquire about Prayers of Love and Faith at Canterbury Cathedral?

Couples who are part of the Cathedral community and who are interested in being offered Prayers of Love and Faith at Canterbury Cathedral can enquire by emailing occasionaloffices@canterbury-cathedral.org

At which services can Prayers of Love and Faith be offered?

These prayers can be offered within the Cathedral’s regular services of public worship on Sundays or weekdays.

Which Prayers of Love and Faith will be used?

The Prayers of Love and Faith resources offer a number of prayers that can be used. The couple, in discussion with a member of our clergy, will decide which of these they would like to be offered.

Can opposite-sex couples be offered Prayers of Love and Faith at Canterbury Cathedral?

The Prayers of Love and Faith were designed specifically for same-sex couples, for whom no other provision is currently made, however, if an opposite-sex couple who are part of our Cathedral community are interested in being offered Prayers of Love and Faith, our clergy will be happy to discuss this with them.

Support For Same-Sex Marriage Stalls Among Protestant Pastors

By Aaron Earls

Almost a decade after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the country, most pastors remain opposed, and the supporting percentage isn’t growing any larger.

One in 5 U.S. Protestant pastors (21%) say they see nothing wrong with two people of the same gender getting married, according to a Lifeway Research study. Three in 4 (75%) are opposed, including 69% who strongly disagree with same-sex marriage. Another 4% say they aren’t sure.

Previous Lifeway Research studies found growing support among pastors. In 2010, 15% of U.S. Protestant pastors had no moral issues with the practice. The percentage in favor grew to 24% in 2019. Today, support is statistically unchanged at 21%.

“Debates continue within denominations at national and judicatory levels on the morality of same-sex marriage, yet the overall number of Protestant pastors who support same-sex marriage is not growing,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “The previous growth was seen most clearly among mainline pastors, and that level did not rise in our latest survey.”

Pastors are slightly more supportive of legal civil unions between two people of the same gender, but most still disagree. Currently, 28% back such arrangements, statistically unchanged from the 32% in 2019 and 28% in 2018.

For most pastors, this remains a somewhat theoretical issue. Almost 9 in 10 say they’ve never been asked to perform a same-sex ceremony, according to a 2022 Lifeway Research study.

Mainline versus evangelical

The previous growth in clergy support of same-sex marriages was driven by U.S. mainline Protestant pastors. In 2010, a third (32%) were in favor. By 2019, almost half (47%) saw nothing wrong. Current support among self-identified mainline pastors remains at similar levels (46%).

Evangelical pastors have been consistently opposed to same-sex marriage. Fewer than 1 in 10 have expressed support for the practice since 2010. Today, 7% of self-identified U.S. evangelical Protestant pastors say they see nothing wrong with two people of the same gender getting married.

A similar divide exists regarding civil unions between two people of the same gender. Most mainline pastors (54%) are supportive, while only 14% of evangelical pastors agree.

Methodists (53%), Presbyterian/Reformed (36%) and Lutherans (34%) are more likely to be supportive of same-sex marriage than Restorationist Movement (8%), non-denominational (5%), Baptist (4%) or Pentecostal (1%) pastors.

Additionally, female pastors (42%), who are more common among mainline denominations, are far more likely than their male counterparts (16%) to back same-sex marriage.

Other demographic groups also have varying degrees of support, though none as drastic as the denominational differences.

Other differences

Younger pastors are more likely to be supportive than the oldest pastors. Protestant pastors 18 to 44 (27%) and 55 to 64 (22%) are more likely than pastors 65 and older (15%) to see nothing wrong with same-sex marriage.

“The moral and doctrinal beliefs of individuals do not tend to move very often or very far, so we wouldn’t expect pastors’ positions to change much,” said McConnell. “However, the differences we see by age make it noteworthy that the higher numbers of young pastors seeing nothing wrong with same-sex marriage is not yet having much of an impact on overall numbers.”

Those with more education are more supportive. Pastors with a master’s (30%) or doctoral degree (26%) are more likely than those with no college degree (9%) or a bachelor’s degree (7%) to say they’re OK with same-sex marriage.

Pastors in the Northeast (27%), where same-sex marriage was first legalized in the U.S., and the Midwest (25%), are more likely than those in the South (18%) to be supportive.

Those leading smaller churches are more likely to see nothing wrong with two people of the same gender getting married. Pastors at churches with fewer than 50 in attendance (27%) and those at congregations of 50 to 99 (25%) are more likely than those at churches with attendance between 100 and 249 (11%) and 250 or more (8%) to be in favor of same-sex marriage.

“Because fewer pastors in mid- and large-size churches are open to same-sex marriage morally, an even larger majority of Protestant churchgoers are in churches in which their pastor does not support same-sex marriages or civil unions,” said McConnell.

Many of the differences between various types of pastors exist for civil unions as well. Younger pastors are more likely to be supportive than older pastors. Pastors with more formal education are more likely to back civil unions.

Those in the Northeast and Midwest tend to be more in favor than those in the South. Pastors at the smallest churches are more likely to see nothing wrong with civil unions between two people of the same gender than those at larger churches.

Complete Article HERE!

He feared coming out.

— Now this pastor wants to help Black churches become as welcoming as his own

Rev. Brandon Thomas Crowley

By DARREN SANDS

It was daunting when the Rev. Brandon Thomas Crowley, at age 22, replaced a beloved pastor who had ministered to one of suburban Boston’s most famed Black churches for 24 years.

It was more daunting — at times agonizing — to reach the decision six years later, in 2015, that God wanted him to tell his congregation that he was gay.

To his relief, most of the worshippers at Myrtle Baptist Church in Newton, Massachusetts, embraced him. Crowley’s career has flourished, and he has now written a book — “Queering the Black Church” — that he hopes can serve as a guide for other congregations to be “open and affirming” to LGBTQ+ people rather than shunning them.

The Rev. Brandon Thomas Crowley speaks during Sunday service at Myrtle Baptist Church Sunday, May 5, 2024 in Newton, Mass. Crowley has written a book — “Queering the Black Church” — that he hopes can serve as a guide for other congregations to be “open and affirming” to LGBTQ+ people rather than shunning them.

Crowley, 37, was born in Atlanta and raised in Rome, Georgia. He admired the preachers he heard as a child, especially at Lovejoy Baptist Church, his home congregation.

One Sunday, however, the pastor preached a fiery sermon against homosexuals.

“He called them all types of names, using derogatory phrases and really describing it as a detestable group and a sinful thing, and I just sort of knew he was talking about me,” Crowley said in an interview. “That was my first introduction to really knowing the beauty of who I am as a queer person.”

Crowley said his great grandmother repeatedly assured him that he was made in the image of God. She also told him about getting pregnant at 14 — and breaking away from her own church after refusing its demand to apologize to the congregation.

“She would say, ‘God loves you,’” Crowley recalled. “She said, ‘They almost made me take my own life when I was pregnant, but I came to know a God beyond the church, and I’ve got beyond what these preachers say.’”

The Rev. Brandon Thomas Crowley speaks during Sunday service at Myrtle Baptist Church in Newton, Mass., on Sunday, May 5, 2024. Myrtle, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, takes pride in its progressive, inclusive congregation, but many Black churches and denominations in the U.S. remain opposed to celebrating same-sex marriages or ordaining openly LGBTQ+ clergy.

Nonetheless, throughout this period, Crowley felt he was called to be a Christian pastor — a preacher of the social justice gospel.

Believing he had to hide his sexual identity in order to pursue that calling, he began dating a girl at Lovejoy.

He had still not come out by the time he entered Morehouse College in Atlanta, joining its Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel Assistants program. While at Morehouse, he said, he experienced his first serious romance with a young man, but led his family to believe it was a non-romantic friendship.

After graduating from Morehouse, Crowley was accepted by Harvard Divinity School. He considered abandoning his dream to be a preacher, and instead “write books about the Black church being dead.”

But one of his friends, convinced of his spiritual talents, encouraged Crowley to apply for the open pastorate at Myrtle Baptist — less than 10 miles from the divinity school.

Soon after he expressed initial interest, Crowley said, he received word that he was “exactly” what Myrtle’s search committee was seeking. He recalled his inner reaction: “I was, like, ‘What are y’all talking about? Like, I’m gay! This can’t happen.’”

But he stayed in the running for the job — even breaking away from a weekend Gay Pride party in Miami to get back in Boston in time to preach at a service attended by the search committee.

Before long, Crowley was named a finalist. His closest mentors were split over whether he should tell Myrtle’s leaders about his sexuality or stay quiet on that topic while doing a good job as preacher. He chose the latter course — and operated that way for six years after his election as Myrtle’s new senior pastor in 2009.

The Rev. Brandon Thomas Crowley speaks during Sunday service at Myrtle Baptist Church in Newton, Mass., on Sunday, May 5, 2024. In his book, Crowley notes that the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Sr. crusaded against homosexuality during his 1908-1936 leadership of New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church — one of the most prominent Black churches in the country.

But over time, Crowley said, he realized “I could only really do the work of God if I operated from a place of real authenticity.”

He also found love in the church. Crowley first met Tyrone Sutton, his partner of three years, when he was guest preaching. Sutton was sitting at the organ. On one of their first dates they sang and played music together.

Periodically during his life, Crowley said, he heard a voice he believed was coming from the spirit of God. He says it first spoke approvingly of his same-sex attraction as a child in 1993, after he was rebuked by a relative for saying that a male character on a sitcom was “so fine.”

“God doesn’t like that,” the relative said. But Crowley recalls hearing the voice tell him that God had made him that way. He says he heard it again at age 12, beckoning him to a life in ministry. And years later, as an adult, he said it would guide him through the emotional process of breaking up with a girlfriend after telling her about his homosexuality.

But those occasions all occurred in private. In the spring of 2015, Crowley says he was sitting in Myrtle’s pulpit one Sunday when he heard the voice speaking to him — telling him it was time to come out.

“Are you crazy? These people are going to put me out,” Crowley recalls telling the voice that was urging him to share the truth.

But minutes later, a tearful Crowley did just that — announcing to his congregation, “I am a proud, Black, gay Christian male.”

“We already knew, reverend,” one church mother told him. “We were just waiting on you.”

Some congregation members decided to leave Myrtle after the announcement, but mostly there was strong support for the pastor. Myrtle’s pews swelled with new members, many of them gay, and Crowley felt emboldened look beyond Newton and take aim at the broader realm of the Black Church.

This year, his first book, “Queering the Black Church: Dismantling Heteronormativity in the African American Church,” was published by Oxford Press.

In the book, Crowley recounts more than a century of Black Christian preaching that was often laden with homophobic diatribes, and broad characterizations of homosexuality as sinful. He notes that the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Sr. crusaded against homosexuality during his 1908-1936 leadership of New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church — one of the most prominent Black churches in the country.

Myrtle, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, takes pride in its progressive, inclusive congregation, but many Black churches and denominations in the U.S. remain opposed to celebrating same-sex marriages or ordaining openly LGBTQ+ clergy.

The Rev. Karmen Michael Smith, who wrote “Holy Queer,” about the gift of being a gay Black Christian, and lectures frequently on the topic, said he’s not as optimistic as Crowley that Black churches can be “queered.” For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, Black churches are the site of trauma and exclusion, he said.

“Those folks aren’t coming back,” Smith said.

It remains a volatile issue in some quarters. The African Methodist Episcopal Church, for example, is expected to vote at an upcoming national meeting on a measure which would allow AME pastors to conduct same-sex marriages.

While pastoring at Myrtle, Crowley earned a Ph.D. from Boston University’s School of Theology. He hopes to become a professor as well as a preacher, he said via email, “further serving my Queer and Black communities in both spiritual and scholarly contexts.”

The Rev. Martha Simmons, an expert in Black preaching and founder of the advocacy group Women of Color in Ministry, became a mentor for Crowley after appearing at Morehouse as a guest speaker. She describes him as perhaps the most gifted of all the students she has encountered in her career.

“The most impressive thing about Brandon is that it’s really hard to be queer in a Black Baptist world, and that’s what he’s been in for most of his adult life,” Simmons said. “And he handles it all so well.”

Complete Article HERE!

What the Methodist split tells us about America

— A separation of church and church.

By

Last week, hundreds of United Methodist Church (UMC) delegates from around the world sat down to vote on whether or not to reverse a longstanding ban on the ordination of LGBTQ clergy. The decision would also determine whether or not to strike a rule that prohibited clergy from presiding over “homosexual unions.”

The room was uncharacteristically hushed as delegates logged their votes. They’d gathered to participate in a quadrennial General Conference, where an elected group of clergy and laypeople review and edit the rules and social stances of the church on a variety of subjects. When the results were announced, the room erupted in loud sobs and cheering. With this vote — and several others — over 50 years of church law, doctrine, and social stances aimed at restricting the full inclusion of LGBTQ methodists were reversed.

In a dramatic deviation from the staid (remarkably congressional) proceedings, the Methodists began to sing.

Church historian Ashley Boggan told Today, Explained’s Noel King that the UMC’s schism should matter to Methodists and non-Methodists alike. “If you look at Methodist history within the United States, it’s a great lens for looking at American history,” she said.

How did we get here?

For the last five years, the United Methodist Church has been fighting over its stance on LGBTQ members.

In a one-off special session in 2019, the UMC had voted to tighten its prohibitions on LGBTQ members — a decision that nearly half of all UMC congregations across the country went on to publicly reject in the following years. So, in 2022, a splinter denomination was born: the Global Methodist Church. Traditionalist congregations had seen the writing on the wall: Change was coming, and they didn’t want to be part of it.

Conservative churches began leaving the denomination in droves, and by the time the General Conference convened this year, a quarter of US congregations had jumped ship. It was this newly slimmed-down UMC that voted to reverse the church’s anti-LGBTQ positions earlier this month.

What Methodists say about America

The Methodist church developed in tandem with the United States. Both are 18th-century experiments in democracy, and each has weathered the great challenges of the last two centuries — war, reunion, and an ever-expanding understanding of personhood — in distinct but parallel lanes.

Throughout the 19th century, as the United States grappled with the notion of Black personhood and the reality of chattel slavery, so too did the Methodists. In 1844, 40 percent of Methodist congregations split off to form a pro-slavery splinter congregation.

That was the last time this many Methodists split off from the main denomination. Fifteen years later, the Confederacy seceded as well, and a bloody civil war shortly followed. This parallel has not gone unnoticed.

According to Boggan, in the decades that followed, this pattern repeated itself. As the post-war US reconstructed itself, the Methodist church followed suit. In a 1939 merger, the Southern and Northern Methodists were once again united. As states enacted Jim Crow laws across the country, the Methodists created a segregated system of their own.

The Methodist church became a sort of bellwether for larger national sentiment, and this extended beyond racial politics, The church granted full ordination rights to women in 1956, and seven years later, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique mainstreamed “the problem with no name.”

While this all might lead us to fear that the current breakup in the Methodist church is yet again a harbinger of violence, it is helpful to remember this caveat: the Civil War-era United States was extremely Methodist. According to church historian Nathan Hatch, in the runup to the Civil War, the Methodist church was “the most extensive national institution other than the Federal government.” The sheer size of the denomination meant that the political reality of the church would eventually become the political reality of the country.

Today, church membership is in decline, and the institutional influence of mainline protestant churches is much diminished (although to exactly what effect is debatable). The church is not, as it was in the 19th century, a small-scale model of the country. Today, according to Boggan, the church acts more like a lens: a way to see broader national tensions work themselves out on a smaller scale.

What next?

At the General Conference, several traditionalists told me that their local congregations were still actively considering leaving the denomination. Dixie Brewster, a conservative delegate from Kansas, told me she feels like the UMC is no longer a big-tent denomination, and “it seems like there’s no place at the table for the conservative view of traditional marriage and family.”

I’m not sure these anxieties are warranted. On paper, the church is an objectively bigger tent today than it was last year. Queer people can pursue ordination, and clergy now have the right to perform same-sex weddings.

Notably, a clear majority of delegates also voted to pass a statement that formally enshrined the rights of traditional clergy to refuse to officiate a same-sex marriage. In a 479–203 vote, the UMC decided that “all clergy have the right to exercise and preserve their conscience when requested to perform any marriage, union, or blessing of any couple.”

It appears that this now “more progressive” UMC is walking a sort of quasi-libertarian road toward progress. By “removing restrictions on paper,” Boggan said, the conversations about how best to love one’s neighbor must change venues. No longer enshrined in the black-and-white text of doctrine, debate is forced back inside the four walls of the church.

While the Methodist church was once a reliable indicator of national sentiment, it lifted its prohibition on gay marriage nearly a decade after Obergefell v. Hodges did the same for the rest of the country. This is not to say that LGBTQ rights in the United States are set in stone. In Florida, legislators have decided that while you can say gay, you have to say it carefully. Most Republican-run states have restricted or outright banned gender-affirming care for minors, and in states where restrictions on LGBTQ people have gotten tighter, reported hate crimes against LGBTQ elementary and high school students have quadrupled.

It is unclear whether or not the United Methodist Church will continue to embody these tensions. The mass exodus of conservative congregations was orchestrated by what Boggan called the “evangelical wing” of the UMC. The wing of the church most actively engaging in conservative culture wars has taken itself out of the conversation.

Whether the Methodists pull back together or splinter further is still an open question.

Complete Article HERE!

The Fight Against Clergy Sex Abuse Also Involves ‘Missionary Kids’

By David Clohessy

Over 35 years ago, when I became the director of a small but growing support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, I vowed to never “rank” the pain of any victim.

“It’s all horrific,” I told myself.

Every survivor is hurt differently and heals differently, I quickly realized, and nothing could be gained by assuming or believing that one was “hurt worse” or was “more vulnerable” than another. Though it may seem counterintuitive, I believe, a child who was groped over his clothing once may be just as traumatized as another child who was raped repeatedly.

The first real challenge to this belief came in the early 1990s when I heard from several adults who were sexually abused as children, not by Catholic clerics, but by fundamentalist missionaries working abroad in the developing world.

While their parents were out proselytizing, these “missionary kids” (as they called themselves) were in a foreign culture, far away from their home countries, watched over daily by largely untrained, completely unsupervised and tragically often predatory “dorm parents.” When some of the youngsters reported being violated, their parents couldn’t believe that other “good Christians” would or could commit such heinous crimes.

How isolated and utterly helpless these children were, I thought. Though I had already spoken with hundreds of survivors of clergy sexual abuse, I became convinced that these “missionary kids” had it “the worst.”

Then, a few months ago, my thinking was challenged again, when I heard from Kathleen Britt, an Idaho mom and former police officer. Her son suffered immeasurably and died prematurely after being gang-raped at a controversial, essentially unregulated and now-shuttered Christian facility in Missouri called the Agape Boarding School.

Last fall, she filed an unusual civil lawsuit against eight defendants who were associated with this “school” and who allegedly committed or concealed physical, emotional and sexual abuse there. Two dozen civil lawsuits against the place and its staff have been settled in recent years. Another dozen or more are pending.

Over the past few months, at least four other similar facilities in remote Missouri counties have generated headlines due to similar reports and allegations. There are several dozen schools like this in the state.

At one of them, three staffers have been arrested and criminally charged with kidnapping and other forms of child mistreatment.

And a few months ago, The Des Moines Register reported on similar accusations against four similar institutions in Iowa.

Now, I’m convinced that these boarding school kids — labelled “troubled” to begin and subjected to severe discipline, depravation and abuse — are indeed among the very most vulnerable and exploited children in institutional care, perhaps as much as or even more than “missionary kids.”

How many facilities and how many crimes are we talking about? Exact numbers are impossible to know. These facilities, like many religiously-affiliated institutions, need not register with state or local authorities. Most are subject to no real monitoring or even basic health and safety requirements (like complying with fire or building codes).

Some who run these “schools” pack up and move elsewhere whenever law enforcement begins to investigate. They are attracted to states like Missouri with even less oversight and even more aversion to alleged interference with religious practices and institutions.

This is why many child protection advocates argue that public schools are inherently safer than private schools. Law enforcement and fiscal authorities can more readily and easily audit and investigate public schools than private schools. Citizens and journalists can better gain access to records in public schools than private ones.  Public school parents can attend and speak at school board meetings. Voters can oust board members, back other candidates and run for those positions themselves.

These “checks and balances” aren’t perfect. Kids are, of course, abused in public schools far more than anyone would like to admit. And child sex crimes are sometimes ignored or concealed in public schools. But experience and common sense indicate that there are far fewer cover ups of child sex crimes in public schools than private ones like these unregulated ‘tough love’ facilities.

In fact, my strong hunch is that these “under the radar” Christian boarding or reform schools will prove to be the next chapter in the ever-present, still burgeoning clergy abuse crisis. And those of us who’ve long supported such survivors will be called upon again to offer sympathy, consolation and guidance to hundreds of mostly invisible victims who have been violated in circumstances even more extreme than the ones in which we were abused.

Complete Article HERE!