Tag Archives: LGBT inclusion in church

Catholic Chaplain: “In this Bethlehem, there’s always room for everyone in the inn.”

It may be rare to encounter a multicolored gay pride flag upon entering a church. But Brandeis’ Catholic chaplain, the Rev. Walter Cuenin, proudly displays the rainbow flag in the Bethlehem Chapel’s foyer. With the word “Peace” written across the middle, the flag symbolizes a proclamation of acceptance and unity for each person who may walk through the Bethlehem Chapel’s doors.

Cuenin bases his decision to exhibit a gay pride flag on a tale about Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. According to Christian tradition, when Mary and Joseph arrived at a Bethlehem inn, Mary was forced to have her baby in an outside stable since there were no rooms left at the inn. Cuenin connects this story to Brandeis’ Bethlehem Chapel by using the multicolored flag to portray that “in this Bethlehem, there’s always room for everyone in the inn.”

Cuenin is currently an ally of Brandeis’ LGBT group, Triskelion. He claims that while the Catholic Church does not support gay marriage, it does welcome gay people to its churches. In fact, when he was a pastor for a larger church nearby, Cuenin had even performed a baptism for the baby of a gay couple.

“The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage, so I cannot directly say I support it, but I have seen from my experience that for many people it creates a much healthier environment … For example, if you were to go to Provincetown in the summer time, where a lot of gay people go, it’s a radically different place today than it was 20 years ago,” Cuenin said. “They are there with children and married, raising kids, so they go home at night. In other words, it has transformed the whole gay scene … it hasn’t led to total debauchery. In some ways, it has pulled people back together,” Cuenin said.

via The Brandeis Hoot .

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For Full Inclusion in Church, Be “Comfortable in Your Own Skin”

Whatever the election result, San Diego’s next mayor is guaranteed to be gay-friendly: two of the four candidates are openly gay, the other two are known to be straight allies. (Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed one of the straight candidates over the gay man and the lesbian in the race). This is an interesting illustration of the political changes over the last four years. In 2008, when the current mayor Jerry Sanders came out in vocal support for marriage equality, and opposition to California’s Proposition H8, he met with serious opposition from his Republican colleagues, and almost failed to get his party’s endorsement for his re-election.

There is a lesson in here though, for queers in church, as well as in politics. I believe firmly that wherever possible, we should be aiming to participate and worship fully and openly in our local communities (in addition to specifically LGBT congregations). These words by the lesbian candidate, Bonnie Dumanis, could easily be read as applying to coming out in church:

In my view, if you feel comfortable in your skin then people will feel comfortable with you,” she said. “You don’t have to make a big deal out of it. You just do your thing and people respond to that. And as more people have been more comfortable being openly gay then more people see that there’s somebody in their life that … they now know is gay and it changes views.”

via  UTSanDiego.com.

I once heard a wise priest say about the Soho Masses that “at it’s best”, the congregation enables people who have long been estranged from the church, to return, once again recognize the value of sacramental life of the church, and then to begin participation in their local parishes.

In other words, the Soho Masses, as well as Dignity, Quest, Integrity and the multitude of their counterparts in other denominations and countries, help us to become “comfortable in our own skins” – the essential precondition to accepting and creating full inclusion in church.

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"All we want for Christmas…..": Filipino Message to the Bishops.

In terms of sheer numbers, the Philippines is a major Catholic country one that doesn’t often make the headlines in the Catholic press elsewhere, except at Easter (when many Catholics re-enact the Passion by volunteering to be crucified themselves).
Perhaps progressive Catholics should pay more attention. Filipinos have demonstrated remarkable imagination in finding ways t0 protest the actions of their politically powerful, conservative bishops. A few years ago, a group of women protested the bishops’ active campaign against the government’s proposed reproductive rights bill, by delivering to the bishops’ conference, colourful baskets of blown up condoms. (My favourite placard carried the message “Bless our reproductive rights”).
Now, in this advent season, a group of LGBT Catholics went carolling for the bishops – with significantly altered words.

LGBTs go caroling at CBCP to protest ‘discrimination’ 

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community on Thursday went caroling in front of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) headquarters in Manila to press for their rights against discrimination.
The protesters, led by political organization “Ang Ladlad,” trooped in front of the CBCP office in Intramuros clad in red and green, with some even wearing Santa hats, and carrying a banner which says “All We Want For Christmas is our Human Rights.”
LGBT members also sang Christmas carols such as “Pasko Na Naman” and “Jingle Bells” with edited lyrics to focus on human rights.
The protesters, for example, sang “All We Want for Christmas is our Human Rights” instead of the usual “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,” an original composition by Don Gardner.

More information comes from the Philippine LGBT Hate Crimes Watch:

“We sing our carols not only for bishops and senators, but also we want the Filipino people to fill our socks and our hearts with blessings of equality by approving the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity, or SOGI, in the Senate Bill (SB) 2814 or the Anti-Ethnic, Racial or Religious Discrimination and Profiling Act of 2011,” Bemz Benedito, Ladlad chairwoman, told the press.

The CBCP came out recently against the bill claiming that SOGI is a personal choice of LGBTs and do not need legal safeguards. The bishops have also traditionally maintained in the nine years that pro-gay bills have tried to pass in Congress that equality bills will lead to same-sex marriage.

LGBT groups however countered that SOGI is a deeply ingrained attribute and that many homosexuals and transgenders suffer lifelong violations of human rights from a bigoted majority, prompting them to campaign for legislative action.

The activists took turns singing medleys of traditional Filipino and English tunes rewritten with witty lyrics that sounded out their demands. Jingle Bells was rewritten this way:

We want you to know, that lesbians and gays
Transgenders and bi’s, have equal human rights
Don’t discriminate, we need more love, not hate
All we want for Christmas is our equal human rights!
(Chorus)
Human rights, human rights, we want human rights!
Lesbian, gay, transgender, bi have equal human rights!

Comment at New Ways Ministry Bondings, where I first came across this story, notes:

Anger over the bishops’ conference position was inflamed when it was reported that a lawyer for the conference, Jo Imbong,  said that LGBT people  “should not be protected from discrimination”  because they had the power to choose their sexual orientation.
It sounds like the Filipino bishops are having the same problem that the U.S. bishops had recently when their adviser on marriage issues, Daniel Avila, suggested in a column in a Catholic newspaper that homosexuality was caused by the devil.  Under pressure, Mr. Avila resigned.
Let’s hope and pray that Jo Imbong either resigns or is dismissed.
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Christian Support For LGBT Equality – From Africa.

There was a time when opponents of LGBT equality or inclusion could claim, without contradiction, that these were “obviously” and necessarily contrary to scripture. No more. Bible scholars, theologians, pastors and other people of faith, from all denominations, are increasingly visible with the counterpart arguments that Biblical values, and those of other faiths, are based primarily on love.
The arguments in favour of acceptance and inclusion have become familiar. What makes this voice fresh and new, is that it comes from Africa – specifically from Malawi.

Why the Church must embrace gays.

IT’s ironic that churches in Malawi are leading the charge against gays contrary to the fundamental basis of Christianity teaching which is love for all of God’s children.  Christianity was built on the premise of unconditional love; as such, a church should be a place where everyone can go for comfort and solace.  A place of refuge where everybody should feel accepted and loved.  Therein lays the tragedy when Malawian churches are at the forefront of the anti-gay movement.
Christians of every persuasion need to understand that the Bible isn’t anti-gay; particularly because of its ability to shape the hearts of people when legislation and social activism fail to do so.  There is no book, chapter or verse in the Bible that teaches Christians to hate anyone. In South Africa, Christians supported apartheid.  Eventually they withdrew their support for apartheid as they came to recognize that apartheid was a system fueled by the hatred of blacks and therefore contrary to Jesus’ teachings.
-Read the full article at Maravi Post
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Edit Post ‹ Queering the Church — WordPress

In an unseemly echo of last year’s story from Boulder, Colorado, where a Catholic school refused to educate the children of two lesbian mothers, a school in Broken Hill, Australia, likewise attempted to refuse admission to the kindergarten class to a child with two moms. The local bishop intervened, instructing the school to reverse its decision – but too late. The damage has been done, and the parents have now refused to enrol the child at a school wish demonstrated homophobia in the first place.
This is how the saga began:
The girl’s parents, one of whom was reportedly baptised Catholic, enrolled her into kindergarten at Sacred Heart Primary School in Broken Hill for next year, but their application was rejected.
One of the mothers told the ABC the principal had phoned her and said the women’s relationship and living situation was the reason the application had been turned down.
Trevor Rynne, principal of the Sacred Heart school, yesterday confirmed the girl had been rejected because of her parents’ relationship but declined to comment further.

Mr Rynne no doubt believed, in common with so many others who use their Catholic or other Christian allegiance as a cloak for their prejudice, that he was protecting the Catholic faith, but Bishop Kevin Manning put him smartly in his place, pointing out that he was misunderstanding the Catholic position.
Bishop Emertitus of Parramatta, Kevin Manning, who has responsibility for the Wilcannia-Forbes district covering Broken Hill, told The Australian this morning there was “no way in the world that we can persecute a child because of what their parents did”.
“I’ve instructed (the school) to offer her the position,” Bishop Manning said.
Bishop Manning said he was “absolutely appalled” by the girl’s case, and that he had not been aware of it before it was reported in the media yesterday.
He said blaming a child for her parents’ “sins” was not the attitude of the Catholic Church.
He described the girl’s case as “most unusual” and said he would be raising the matter within the Catholic hierarchy.
“I will be taking this to the Australian bishops and asking them to make some pretty clear statements,” he said.
He said the move by the school was out of step with Catholic teaching, and that something between the school’s principal and priest must have got “twisted up or misinterpreted” for them to reach such a decision.
However, the latest reports are that the parents have turned down the offer of enrolment:
A SAME-SEX couple whose daughter was refused a place at a Catholic school because of their sexuality has turned down a subsequent offer of enrolment after a senior bishop intervened on their behalf.

Out in Africa, in Church.

For a man to be both both married, and an active churchgoer, should be unremarkable.   That Mooketsi Sedimo’s marital status and church participation is different, is because his spouse is a man, and he and his husband live in Africa – in Botswana.  We are all familiar with depressing headlines about the homophobic hysteria in some African countries, but too easily overlook the more encouraging stories that also come out of the continent.
Botswana does not have the constitutional protections available to the LGBT community in neighbouring South Africa, and there is substantial popular suspicion directed against gay men and lesbians, just as there is in many other countries. However, as has been amply demonstrated for prejudice of all kinds, in all places, familiarity does not breed contempt, but understanding and acceptance. Instead of trying to escape prejudice by hiding in a closet, Sedimo adopted the unusual tactic (for Botswana) of simply coming out openly, even to his pastor. This he did in completely unambiguous terms, by explaining that he had married a man, in South Africa.
Sedimo is in a same sex marriage, having wedded his partner in South Africa early this year. “I let my pastor know, as well as my family members. My pastor explained the matter to the church later. What is pleasing is that the church decided to accept me and not to judge me, because judgement is for the Lord,” says the soft spoken and cigarette liking man.
Sedimo is an active and talented member of the church band, which probably has a lot to do with the acceptance he has received.

The bandmaster, Cavere Moahi, describes Sedimo as “one hell of a dedicated member” who is also talented in playing various musical instruments of worship like the drums, euphonium (phala), trumpet, and the alto horn.
The bandmaster even has high hopes for Sedimo that at the rate he is excelling in the band, it “won’t be long before he starts playing the tuba baritone”
“He is not just a dedicated member, Sedimo is also full of love, which radiates throughout the church. We learnt about his sexual orientation recently, but decided to leave everything in the hands of the Lord who created our church mate. We believe God loves him as much as He loves us and only God is able to judge us. So we love him (Sedimo) and he loves the church so much. He is so free in the church that he can even stand before everyone and preach. That’s how free we are with him.”
The value to the wider community when individuals come out in church, is that it is difficult to maintain hostility in principle that is directed against an abstract group, when the target of that hostility becomes a flesh and blood person, seated in the pew or playing in the band or singing in the choir behind you. Growing acceptance of the individuals in the congregation then leads to reduced prejudice against the group as a whole.
In Sedimo’s case, there is another important lesson in his story: his strong endorsement of marriage, as contributing to family and social stability:
However, Sedimo has never been blind to Botswana society’s negative perception of people in same sex relationships.
This negative perception would play a part when Sedimo wanted to make a choice about his long-term plans.Sedimo says he knew he needed to be in a stable relationship as opposed to what he says is a highly promiscuous and carefree lifestyles common among the gay community in Botswana.
It is this need for stability that convinced Sedimo to look beyond Botswana’s borders for a suitable partner. “I also wanted to protect the gay people of Botswana from the negative perceptions that they would be subjected to if their relatives came to know about our relationship,” says Sedimo, as he puffs his cigarette as if his courage depended on it.
Those who believe that they can “protect” marriage and family by maintaining legal restrictions on it have it completely wrong: the experience of Sedimo, and countless other same sex couples, is that marriage contributes to stable families and societies – irrespective of the gender or orientation involved.

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Soho Masses (and Me) on National Television.

The UK’s rule-book Catholics who so visibly oppose London’s gay Masses have been vocal in their fervent hope and prayer that Pope Benedict’s impending visit will bring order to a wayward flock, and bring “unity” (by which they appear to mean whipping everybody else into conformity with their own, very narrow, understanding of Catholicism.) They will be disappointed. Already it is abundantly clear that our Masses will not be stopped, and may well come out of the Papal visit stronger than ever.

The visit itself has led to a constant stream of news and analysis in the British media, including daily short inserts in the BBC’s “Newsnight” programme. A range of longer programmes have also been broadcast, or are scheduled for the weeks ahead. Some of these programmes have specifically featured teaching on homosexuality, and our Soho Masses. Taken together, they amount to vastly more extensive public exposure, and qualitatively more sympathetic publicity, than we have ever seen before.

Yesterday morning, the openly gay broadcaster Mark Down was on BBC4 Radio, with programme called “Pope Benedict’s British Divisions”, which examined the changes in the local church since the previous papal visit, by Pope John Paul II. This covered many aspects of the church – but our Masses (where Dowd is a regular participant) were an important part.   Last evening, the Newsnight short feature also had prominence for the Masses, including footage of a range of members of the congregation who had been interviewed before Mass – myself included. I had been wondering how best to introduce you to those extracts of these two programmes which are specifically relevant to our Masses (leaving the bigger picture of the Church as a whole to a separate post), but the BBC has made it easy for me. At the BBC magazine website, there is a superb written summary of Mark Dowd’s radio programme, together with video footage of the interviews with Soho Mass participants from the Newsnight feature. Have a look,  at “Britain’s Only Gay Mass“.

As Britain prepares for a visit from the Pope, there is opposition from some gay people who believe the Roman Catholic church is intolerant of their sexuality. But in one London church homosexuals are attending a “gay Mass” with the blessing of senior clergy.

Paul Brown had not been to church since his mother’s funeral in 2002. Now he is back in the pews, courtesy of a Mass for lesbian and gay Catholics which is the only one of its kind in the UK. “I searched for a Mass with a positive message about things you should do, not someone telling me all the things I shouldn’t do,” he says. Paul, who sports a black leather biker’s jacket, is one of a number who have transformed the church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory in London’s West End. They sing hymns at the top of their voices. Many are aged under 30. Some have dyed hair. Suddenly, Catholicism seems be all the rage in this part of central London

I’m the disreputable looking one making a point about the Church and sexual ethics in general, responding to the observation that homosexual activity is contrary to church teaching. What I said was,

The simple fact is that across the world, Catholics disagree with, and do not comply with Church teaching – no, Vatican teaching – on a whole range of sexual ethics matters

As my friend and colleague on the Pastoral Council, Renate Rothwell, says in her quotation,

My life without the Soho Mass would be bleaker, lonelier and less joyful.

Another friend, former priest Tom Munn, asked what he thought the Pope thinks of the Mass (or if it mattered to him), replied

My faith is more important to me than what the Pope thinks.

This is a sentiment I would support, but in fact is irrelevant to our situation. My own response to the same question (on the cutting room floor) was that I am quite sure that the pope does support the Masses (if he has specific knowledge of them), or would support the principle if he does not. We certainly know that the Masses were arranged in consultation with high level Vatican officials, who continue to monitor them closely. We also know that the present head of the CDF, Cardinal Levada, was one of the earliest appointments made by Benedict on assuming the papacy – and as head of the San Francisco diocese, Cardinal Levada had previously been supportive of the Masses at Most Holy Redeemer, San Francisco. As Mark Dowd makes clear in his radio programme, Cardinal Levada certainly has full knowledge of our Masses. It is inconceivable that he would condone a pastoral initiative in conflict with the intentions of Benedict, or that Benedict would have appointed him if he were hostile to the principle of a gay Mass, such as that in the Castro. It is also significant that under the previous papacy of John Paul II, the organizers of our Masses, who were then unable to find a home in any Catholic church, were constantly unable to set up any form of meeting or even simple correspondence with the then Cardinal Archbishop or his representatives. Yet just eighteen months into Benedict’s papacy, we were approached by the diocese with a request to move into a Catholic church – and were amazed by the sense of urgency with which they were treating the matter. So I am convinced that we have implied support from Benedict himself, and direct support from his deputies.

What should be of real concern to the rule-book protesters agitating to have the Masses stopped, is this statement by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster diocese, who is both the local ordinary and the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales:

“anybody who is trying to cast a judgement on the people who come forward for communion really ought to learn to hold their tongue”.

This quotation should be read in conjunction with an earlier statement from Nichols that in the Catholic tradition, a genuine search for truth is more important than mere blind loyalty. (“Real Catholicism”: Blind Loyalty, or a Search for Truth?“) It is a clear warning to our band of protesters that their opposition is misplaces and will not be allowed to derail the Masses, echoing the verdict that they were earlier given directly by a senior Vatican official (A “Culture of Life” and Ferment in the UK Church).

Instead, the head of the English church has made it clear that these Masses serve a real pastoral need – and could well be extended, in time, to other English diocese where the need exists  (Brighton, say, which has a strong gay population and where the local ordinary has a reputation as relatively liberal?).

I like Archbishop Nichols, and this papal visit,  more and more.

(The full programmes from Radio 4 and Newsnight, with more extensive coverage of the Masses and also of the wider church, are available on the BBC’s i-player service, but only for a limited period after broadcast. For the curious, this  is me:

 

 

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