Tag Archives: Anglican Communion

Anglican stance on same-sex marriage ‘morally contemptible’, says gay cleric

Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, accuses Rowan Williams of hardening the Church of England’s attitude to gay marriage

Rev Jeffrey John, dean of St Albans

The most senior openly gay cleric in Britain has accused the Church of England of pursuing a “morally contemptible” policy on same-sex marriage, denouncing it for moving “in the opposite direction” to society and criticising Rowan Williams for changing his “public position” on the issue as soon as he was made Archbishop of Canterbury.

In a new preface to his 1990 booklet on gay relationships, Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, writes that, by setting themselves against same-sex marriage, the bishops of the Church have prioritised the union of the Anglican communion over the rights of gay Christians.

“This policy may be institutionally expedient, but it is morally contemptible,” he writes in an abridged extract of the preface published in the Guardian. “Worst of all, by appeasing their persecutors it betrays the truly heroic gay Christians of Africa who stand up for justice and truth at risk of their lives. For the mission of the Church of England the present policy is a disaster.”

John writes that, contrary to the expectations of those who had expected Williams to introduce a new tone in the Church’s stance on homosexuality, the Church’s line has in fact “continued to harden” during his near-decade as Archbishop of Canterbury.

John – who was forced to withdraw his appointment as bishop of Reading in 2003 due to fury from conservative evangelicals – says that as Archbishop of Wales Williams had made the case for an ethical framework for gay relationships. “Tragically, he changed his public position as soon as he reached the throne of St Augustine,” he adds. “Since then the Church’s line has continued to harden.”

In Permanent, Faithful, Stable, republished this week as Anglicans prepare for a stormy autumn of debate over same sex marriage, John outlines the theological case for gay people in stable and faithful relationships to be offered the same recognition as heterosexual couples. While superficially there is “little difference”, he writes, between civil partnership and marriage, the official distinction “helps perpetuate a distinction in status”.

via The Guardian.

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Pauli Murray: Episcopal church votes on queer saint / activist for gender and racial equality.

Human rights champion Pauli Murray, an unofficial queer saint, will be voted on this week by the Episcopal Church at its general convention in Indianapolis.

Murray (1910-1985) has been nominated for inclusion in the Episcopal Church’s book of saints, “Holy Women, Holy Men.” If approved, she will be honored every July 1 on the church calendar.

She is a renowned civil rights pioneer, feminist, author, lawyer and the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. Her queer orientation is less well known.

Murray was attracted to women and her longest relationships were with women, so she is justifiably considered a lesbian. But she also described herself as a man trapped in a woman’s body and took hormone treatments in her 20s and 30s, so she might even be called a transgender today.

via Jesus in Love Blog

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U.S. Episcopalians move closer to allowing transgender ministers

The U.S. Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops on Saturday approved a proposal that, if it survives a final vote, would give transgender men and women the right to become ministers in the church.

The House of Bishops voted at the church’s General Convention to include “gender identity and expression” in its “non-discrimination canons,” meaning sexual orientation, including that of people who have undergone sex-change operations, cannot be used to exclude candidates to ministry.

The move comes nine years after the Episcopal Church, an independent U.S.-based church affiliated with the worldwide Anglican Communion, approved its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, sparking an exodus of conservative parishes.

The Anglican Communion is a global grouping of independent national churches, which develop their own rules for ordination and other matters pertaining to membership and conduct.

The Episcopal Church, which has about 2 million members mostly in the United States, now allows gay men and lesbians to join the ordained ministry.

The resolutions on gender would allow transgender individuals access to enter the Episcopal lay or ordained ministries, and extend the overall non-discrimination policy to church members.

The resolutions must now be approved by the church’s House of Deputies.

The church already bars discrimination, for those who wish to join the ministry, on the basis of race, color, ethnic and national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities and age.

When a similar resolution was considered at the church’s last convention in 2009 the bishops agreed the church would ban “all” discrimination, rather than identify individual groups.

But supporters of the change said it was time to go further.

At this year’s triennial convention, being held in Indianapolis, the church’s leadership is also due to consider approving a liturgy for same-sex weddings.

If approved, the church would establish a standard liturgy to use in same-sex unions for use on a trial basis starting in December, 2012.

Currently when church members ask for a blessing for their same-sex unions, they rely on their bishop for approval of liturgy, whether for a purely religious ceremony or for solemnizing a marriage where such unions are legal.

– Reuters.

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Bishop Mary Glasspool

b, February 23, 1954

A suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. She is the first open lesbian to be consecrated a bishop in the Anglican Communion.

Glasspool was born on February 23, 1954, in Staten Island Hospital, New York, to Douglas Murray Glasspool and Anne Dickinson. Later that year the Glasspool family moved to Goshen, New York, where her father served as Rector of St. James’ Church until his death in 1989. She entered the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1976 and was ordained a deacon in June 1981 and a priest in March 1982. In 1981, Glasspool became assistant to the rector at St. Paul’s Church in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, where she served until 1984. She was the rector of St. Luke’s and St. Margaret’s Church in Boston from 1984 to 1992, then the rector of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Annapolis, from 1992 to 2001, and was called to serve as canon to the bishops for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland in 2001.
Glasspool was elected a bishop suffragan on December 4, 2009, on the seventh ballot at the 115th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles in Riverside, California. On March 17, 2010, the Presiding Bishop’s Office certified that her election had received the necessary consents and she was subsequently consecrated on May 15, 2010, in Long Beach, California. Glasspool is the 17th woman and the first openly gay woman elected to the episcopate in the Episcopal Church. Her election has gained worldwide attention in the context of the ongoing debate about gay bishops in Anglicanism.
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Marriage Equality & the Church – Sweden

Wedding cake of a same-sex marriage, photo tak...
In the wake of the disappointing, but expected, Californian ruling on Prop 8, it is worth stepping back and reflecting on the gains elsewhere, and especially on the impact on the churches.
It is well known how rapidly legal recognition of same sex marriage has progressed: first in Iowa, by court order, then in rapid succession Vermont and Maine by legislative action. New Hampshire is not quite there yet, but it is likely just a matter of time – as it is in New York and New Jersey.  DC has voted to recognise marriages legally conducted elsewhere, Washington has approved expansion of their civil union regime to ‘everything but marriage’, and in many other states and city jurisdictions, there have been less dramatic, incremental gains.  These have been widely reported and celebrated.
One big advance, and the one that I suspect may be more important for its long term impact on the churches of the world, has drawn remarkably little attention.  The day before the Iowa announcement, and drowned out of the news by the drama of developments in Iowa and New England, The Swedish parliament, with the minimum of fuss or fanfare, and the support of all the major parties, voted to make Sweden the fith country in Europe to recognise same sex marriage.   For those of us in Europe, especially if we are committed to the ideal of ever closer union, this is obviously more significant than the stop-start progress in some minor American states and cities. But I believe that the significance for all of us is substantial, particularly if we are professed Christians.  Why?
In the US, and also here in the UK, the legal provisions for same sex marriage or civil unions/partnerships, where they exist, are quite specifically for ‘civil’ marriage or partnerships.  Indeed, the British legislation specifically prohibits the use of religious language or premises for the ceremony; increasinlgy, US legislators are cradting thier gains by spelling  out the the legislation proposed places no obligations on religious minsters, or even staff.
The Swedish situation is quite different. The legislation quite specifically provides for legal recognition of either civil or church marriage. This has huge implications for the Swedish Lutheran Church, which until recently was the official state church of the country, with special status, even funding, in the legal system.  This has changed, but the informal ties and status remain strong.  So what was the response of the church?   Did they start weeping and wailing and gnashing there teeth? Did they lament the moral decadence of the country?  Did they offer grudging toleration, with ifs and buts to demand a right of opt-out?  None of the above.  a final decision awaits a full synod later in the summer, but the provisional, formal response was that the church would understand and ‘excuse’ any pastor who, as a matter of conscience,  felt s/he could NOT preside over same sex weddings.  That’s right – the specail consideration and understanding goes to those who are opposed:  the default position, buy Sweden’s major church, is to take in their stride same sex marriage conducted in church. Unless I have wildly misread the situation, this is likely to be the standard position after the synod later this year.
This will have important ripple effects, notably elsewhere in the EU.  Pressure for marriage equality will undoubtedly continue to spread across the EU, particularly in Western Europe.  When (not if), equality reaches Germany and Austria, the German Lutheran church, and also the German and Austrian Catholic churches,  will have to consider carefully their position.  All of them have special state recognition and funding.  Even in advance of legislation, just the propect of pressure for marriage, is forcing the churches into hard tactical consideration – faced with an emergin gay marriage lobby, the Portuguese Bishops proposed civil partnerships as a compromise solution – thus embracing the very proposal that there English counterparts strongly opposed a few years back.
In the English speaking world, the troubles caused to the Anglican Communion (which includes the Episcopalians) by disputes over homosexuality are well known. But while skirmishing continues, it is clear that over the longer term view, the tide is clearly turning in the direction of greater acceptance. The continuning expansion of legal recognition of civil marriage across the USA is already forcing more and more individual pastors, and local jursdictions, into fresh consideration of their own stance – and an increasing minority are  coming down on the side of at least blessing, and possibly solemnising, these unions in church.  Every synod season sees new debates on these. Where there is not yet victory, the margins of defeat are generally narrowing.
For me, the most heartening aspect of this, is the increasing number of reports I am seeing of sincere religious clergy of goodwill, who have found themselves prayerfully re-examining scriptures, theology and church history in search of guidance – and concluding that established church strictures against homosexuallity are without scriptural foundation, and misguided. (The recently released survey of ‘mainline protestant clergy’ attitudes to SSM has some fascinating figures on this).
There is no longer any doubt:  marriage equality is spreading steadily across the world, and across the US.  As it does so, the churches will increasingly be forced to grapple with, and re-examine, their own beliefs.  In doing so, many will reverse long-standing opposition to same sex relationships, and see the value of recognising commitment, whatever the orientation or gender of the partners.
The Catholic church will be behind the trend – but will not resist indefinitely.  Here, too, truth will triumph in the end.
Same Sex Marriage:  coming (soon) to a church near you – but not yet to a Catholic parish.
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