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’.

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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!

Anglicans derailed anti-gay vote, but 125 anti-gay bishops forge ahead

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, at last week’s Lambeth Conference.

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Progressive Anglican bishops breathed a sigh of relief that plans for a vote against homosexuality were derailed at the just-ended international Lambeth conference of Anglican bishops. Meanwhile, separate from the formal conference in Canterbury, England, conservative Anglican bishops launched an initiative that allows bishops to show their support for the anti-homosexuality resolution that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, removed from the Lambeth agenda.

Leaders of the Lambeth conference of bishops representing the 85 million worldwide members of Anglican churches backed away from a planned vote on whether to reaffirm a 1998 resolution rejecting homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and gay clergy.

As the conference ended, the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) announced that among bishops at the conference, 125 bishops from 21 provinces representing 7.9 million Anglicans, had signed up in support of the anti-gay resolution. The conservative bishops said that they would also invite bishops from Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda to support the resolution. Those bishops — representing about 27 million Anglicans — boycotted the Lambeth conference because it did not exclude bishops from Anglican churches that accept same-sex marriage and/or ordain gay bishops:

  • The Episcopal Church in America;
  • The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil;
  • The Anglican Church of Canada;
  • The Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia;
  • The Scottish Episcopal Church; and
  • The Church in Wales.

The GSFA bishops said that “if there is no authentic repentance by the revisionist provinces, then we will sadly accept a state of ‘impaired communion’’ with them.”

The GSFA position is not as harshly anti-gay as that of many other anti-gay churches, especially in Africa. The 1998 resolution:

  • recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
  • While rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex.

Progressive Anglicans remained upbeat about the conference. For example, as The Guardian reported:

“170 archbishops and bishops issued a statement affirming the ‘holiness of LGBT+ people’s love’. Many LGBT+ people had been ‘historically wounded by the church and particularly hurt by the events of the past few weeks’.

“Jayne Ozanne, a prominent campaigner for LGBT+ equality within the church, said she was ‘overwhelmed with the level of support and concern … for the global LGBT+ community.’

“Ozanne added: ‘We now need to look at practical ways to help educate people about matters of sexuality and gender identity, and to share the theological basis that has led so many to affirm and celebrate same sex relationships.’ “

Complete Article HERE!

Bridging Religion and Sexual Diversity in Latin America

People gather for a pride march in Bogota, Colombia, on July 4, 2021.

By María Mercedes Acosta

Like many Latin Americans, Enrique Vega Dávila, 36, grew up in a non-practicing Catholic family. But from a very young age, he dreamed of actually living the Catholic faith, and he chose to do so by becoming a priest. About six years into seminary, his dream was interrupted when he realized he was gay. Continuing as a member of the Catholic clergy would require him to live a double life, as so many other priests have done for centuries.

The Catholic church isn’t the only religious institution to reject ordination of or condemn people identifying as LGBTQ+. But in recent history, several Protestant denominations have chosen to be more inclusive by ordaining LGBTQ+ clergy and allowing same-sex marriage. Dávila took advantage of that change by becoming a Lutheran pastor, and he’s now obtaining a doctorate in gender studies at Iberoamericana University in Mexico City.

In his new denomination, he does not have to hide his sexual orientation, tattoos, earrings, or the makeup he sometimes likes to apply. He is well known as “el reverendo cuir” (the queer pastor). Everywhere he goes, and in every way he can, Dávila likes to remind people that religious freedom is for everyone and that no pastor or priest can prevent LGBTQ+ people from following whatever faith they believe in or loving whomever they choose.

Dávila is one of the protagonists of a multi-platform series of life stories produced by Sentiido, a nonprofit organization based in Bogotá, Colombia. Formed in 2011, Sentiido uses communications, research, and storytelling to reduce stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and leverage social change. Faith + Diversity, as the project is called, is part of Sentiido’s larger commitment to amplify the work of affirming faith communities.

Enrique Vega Dávila
Enrique Vega Dávila photographed in Mexico City, Mexico, on January 27, 2022.

Faith + Diversity began in 2017 and seeks to raise awareness about the many different ways in which LGBTQ+ people engage with religion and spirituality. Stories like Dávila’s are a reminder that Christianity is rooted in the core value of unconditional love, which is why it so often invokes Biblical phrases such as “love one another as I have loved them” or “do not judge and you will not be judged.”

For Sentiido, that also means refraining from labeling and dismissing opponents of sexual and gender diversity as “homophobic,” “transphobic,” or “anti-LGBTQ rights.” Real change—fundamental transformation—takes time, and for many, it can feel as if a new worldview is being “pushed” on them, which can exacerbate already existing polarization. At Sentiido, we also know that many people of faith understand Biblical teachings in a historical context and are open to the value of inclusion. Therefore, Faith + Diversity encourages dialogue with those willing to have conversations, reminding people of all faiths what they already know: that all humans are equal in the eyes of God.

At Sentiido, we also emphasize what unites us, rather than what divides us. For example, most Latin Americans place a very high value on their family and their faith. These shared values provide a common ground for conversations about dignity, love, empathy, understanding, and support, which can lead to addressing other issues like resilience, freedom, and solidarity.

Still, changing hearts, minds, and church policies is a process. For Dávila, it starts by letting LGBTQ+ people know they don’t have to heed the warnings of Catholic leaders who say that homosexuality is not a sin but homosexual acts are, or believe evangelical and Pentecostal ministers claiming LGBTQ+ people are making “wrong choices that must be corrected.” He affirms that divine love is bigger than a church, a religious leader, or a book; rather, it is an entire life experience.

The late Harvey Milk, a gay American politician and activist who was assassinated in 1978, once told a crowd that the LGBTQ+ community is simply asking for hope: “Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only are the gays, but the Blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the ‘us-es.’ The ‘us-es’ will give up.” He added that electing more LGBTQ+ people to public office would help to build that hope. “That gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward,” Milk said. “It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.”

Calling out the inequality, injustice, and violence against LGBTQ+ people is as central to our work as it was to Milk’s activism. We want everyone to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. To do so, we share the stories and experiences of LGBTQ+ people in their daily lives, in their homes and churches, while holding space for all people to feel heard and be seen, even those who may be struggling with their views about LGBTQ+ people.

George Lakoff, a researcher in the field of cognitive linguistics, says constant dialogue around societal problems without conversations focused on wide-reaching solutions can reinforce old mindsets. People connect best to stories in which LGBTQ+ people show up as their authentic selves. So rather than focus on statements like “a world without hate” or “a world without discrimination,” we promote stories that give us picture of the world we would like to live in. It’s a world in which everyone strives to do the right thing by their neighbor, because everyone wins when they do so.

Complete Article HERE!

Patriarchy and purity culture combine to silence women in the Southern Baptist Convention

— And are blocking efforts to address the sexual abuse scandal

A woman describes being abused sexually by a Southern Baptist minister, outside the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June 2019, in Birmingham, Ala.

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A devastating yearlong investigation into the executive committee of the largest conservative evangelical denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, has documented widespread claims of sex abuse including accusations of rape, cover-ups and gross mistreatment of women seeking justice.

In 2019 the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News partnered on a series of investigative reports on sexual misconduct by Southern Baptists with formal church roles. Subsequently, the annual meeting of the SBC held in June 2021 voted to authorize an investigations firm, Guidepost Solutions, to conduct an independent probe of its executive committee and its handling of sex abuse. The report and the list of alleged offenders has recently been made public.

I am a scholar of evangelicalism, gender and American culture, and over several years of my research I have seen how deeply ingrained aspects of conservative white evangelicalism force women to stay silent. In researching my two books, “Evangelical Christian Women” and “Building God’s Kingdom,” I found how structures of patriarchy force women to stay silent.

These deeply ingrained aspects of conservative white evangelicalism include “complementarianism,” or the patriarchal view that God gives authority to men and requires submission from women, and purity culture, an extreme version of sexual abstinence.

Purity culture

The SBC’s “True Love Waits,” a premarital abstinence campaign for teens launched in 1992, was an important component of the rise of purity culture. It was best known for the purity rings that girls wore as part of a pledge to their virginity to God and family.

More than merely the value of forgoing sex until marriage, purity culture centers sexual purity as a primary measure of the value of young women, who need to remain “pure” to attract a godly man in marriage. Sex education is virtually nonexistent, and dating is traded for “courtship” leading to marriage, under the authority of the girl’s father.

As author Linda Kay Klein writes in her book “Pure,” women are taught that they are responsible not only for their own purity, but for the purity of the males around them. Women are also made to believe that they are responsible if men are led to sin by what women wear. Additionally, they can be blamed for being inadequately submissive and for speaking up when they should be quiet. Women raised with these teachings also report experiencing tremendous fear and shame around issues of gender, sex and marriage.

The rhetoric of purity culture can be traced directly to the racist origins of the Southern Baptist Convention. The defense of slavery was the very foundation upon which the denomination was built, and the protection of the “purity of white womanhood” was a the justification for the perpetuation of white supremacy that outlived slavery.

How survivors described the abuse

Credibly accused men were protected by the SBC, while the women who dared to speak up were called sluts, adulteresses, Jezebels and even agents of Satan. For example, the report details the story of one woman whose abuse was mischaracterized by the SBC’s Baptist Press as a consensual affair and she was harassed online and called an adulteress. She ultimately lost her job at a Southern Baptist organization.

The report, which the former SBC leader Russell Moore calls “apocalyptic,” details harassment, insults and attacks on social media, some of which came from Baptist leaders to whom the women had been taught God required them to revere and submit. For example, the executive staff member at the center of handling abuse accusations, Augie Boto, characterized the survivors seeking justice as doing the work of Satan.

Survivor after survivor described their treatment at the hands of their own leaders as worse than their initial assaults. One survivor told investigators that when she provided details of her sexual abuse as a child among other things, one Executive Committee (EC) member “turn(ed) his back to her while she was speaking … and another EC member chortl(ed).”

“I ask you to try to imagine what it’s like to speak about something so painful to a room in which men disrespect you in such a way. … to speak about this horrific trauma of having my pastor repeatedly rape me as a child, only to have religious leaders behave in this way,” she said.

Shaming and silencing women

A woman wearing a blue shirt speaking at a microphone, with a poster by her side that says 'I can call it evil because I know what goodness is.'
Rape survivor and abuse victim advocate Mary DeMuth speaks during a rally protesting the Southern Baptist Convention’s treatment of women outside the convention’s annual meeting in Dallas in June 2019.

When victims are permitted to tell their stories to people in authority, it is likely to be an all-male committee including perhaps friends of the accused.

In such a hearing women – who because of purity culture practices have often been taught to always be modest and quiet in mixed company and may have had little to no sex education – are asked to detail what they often say is the most painful experience of their lives. Purity culture creates in women a strong sense of shame surrounding their bodies, their own sexuality, and sex in general. When they exhibit evidence of that shame it is taken as an admission that they share responsibility for the abuse.

Like their forebears before them who mobilized the mythic purity of white womanhood to shore up their power, today’s leaders at the center of this report remain male and overwhelmingly white. They use the language of purity culture to shame and silence women seeking justice while, at the same time, leading the charge in the fight against coming to terms with racism.

Can there be real reform?

The chairman of the SBC executive committee, Rolland Slade, and interim President and CEO Willie McLaurin said in a statement, in response to the report: “We are grieved by the findings of this investigation. We are committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches, to improve our response and our care, to remove reporting roadblocks.” Other Baptists too have expressed shock and anger at the revelations.

The Guidepost Solutions report concludes with a series of strategies such as forming an independent committee to oversee reforms, including providing resources for prevention and reporting of abuse. As helpful as these strategies may be, they don’t address how the underlying culture of the SBC continues to maintain the structures of white patriarchy.

Complete Article HERE!