Tag Archives: LGBT inclusion in church

Lutheran Inclusion: LGBT Clergy Welcomed in San Francisco.

This past summer, the PCUSA General Assembly voted to recognise openly gay and lesbian clergy. Last summer, the ELCA did the same. In neither case, did the decision immediately end the problems of the past. First, ratification was required, which the ECLA have since done, but not yet the PCUSA. That still was not enough.  We can all too easily overlook the long years of hurt inflicted on queer clergy prior to this decision. Changing the law is not enough: hurts must also be healed.
This is why I like this report , of a celebratory admission procedure for seven pastors in the San Francisco area.   Even before the Assembly decision last year, there were many gay or lesbian pastors working in welcoming congregations, but they could not get formal recognition on church rosters. With a change in regulations, it would presumably be a simple matter technically to arrange the inclusion on the roster in a simple, low key way – but that would not address the real problem.
Instead, the ceremony that has been planned will be joyous and festive. In addition to formally welcoming these pastors into full acceptance and inclusion, and making partial recompense for the years of slight, it will also be recognizing the many years of work, across a broad front, that led to the decision.  Chris Glaser and other queer writers on faith have observed that we, as gay, lesbian and trans people in church, have a need for formal ceremonies to mark our own special life transitions – such as coming out- which can be described as truly sacramental. This ceremony is just such a sacramental moment for these San Francisco Lutherans. Let us join with them in giving thanks and sharing our prayers – then extend the work into other faiths which still have further to go.

From the Kansas City Star:

“It’s going to be an extremely glorious and  festive  ceremony because it’s the culmination of decades of work to welcome LGBT people into the ELCA,” said Amalia Vagts, executive director of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a nonprofit that credentials openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people for ministry.
Megan Rohrer, one of the pastors who will participate in Sunday’s rite of reception service, grew up in South Dakota and attended a Lutheran college where she said students tried to exorcise her “gay demons” by throwing holy water on her. Some of those people are now Lutheran pastors in South Dakota, she said.
Rohrer, who is transgender and a lesbian, was ordained by four congregations in San Francisco in 2006, but could not join the ELCA roster until the denomination’s national assembly approved the new policy in August.
“I didn’t really believe the policy was going to change as quickly as it did,” she said.
Rohrer said she is hopeful Sunday’s service will be a “symbol” to young people that the Lutheran church is working toward becoming more welcoming of people of all different backgrounds.
Jeff Johnson, another one of the pastors who will be added to the roster, said the ELCA’s position for years of not accepting the choice of some congregations to ordain gay clergy was painful and disappointing.
“The actions the church is taking on Sunday affirms the decisions of those congregations,” Johnson, pastor of the University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, said. “The church is respecting our family, our partners, the choices we’re making.”

PCUSA General Assembly, Rainbow Scarves

I’ve already written about the General Assembly and its decisions affecting LGBT inclusion. This report from Huffington Post, though, with its emphasis on the rainbow scarves, prompted a fresh thought: what a contrast this is to the Catholic response to the Rainbow Sash. In both churches, the significance of the sash is the same – a symbol of queer exclusion in church, and a call of full inclusion. At PCUSA, the scarves were openly worn and promoted, not openly at the GA, but also in local congregations ahead of time, preparing the way. In the Catholic Church, even among a gay worshipping community, just talking about them can promote near hysteria.
The rainbow scarves fascinated Libby Shannon. Throughout the Assembly she saw them, hanging proudly over the necks of people over the age of 70 as well as those in their 20s. Men and women wore them as a witness to their support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Libby attended the 219th General Assembly of the PC(USA) in Minneapolis, a biennial gathering of pastors and lay people who make decisions on behalf of our two million-member church, earlier this month. The gathering prays and studies together, seeking God’s guidance for their work and making declarations about social justice issues that will focus our energy and mission.
I also noticed the scarves, even though I wasn’t there in Minnesota. I saw them hanging from the crochet needles at our church’s Wednesday night Bible study. I spotted them at our local governing meetings. Then I noticed them at the General Assembly (GA) as I watched it livestreaming over the Internet.

Gay Marriage, in Church: Denmark Next?

Last year, Sweden approved full marriage equality, including church weddings if desired, for gay and lesbian couples. Up to now, this has been the only country where it has been possible for same sex couples to have a full religious wedding in a major denomination, and have it recognized by the state. (The other countries which recognize gay marriage, do so only for civil marriages.) However, support for full religious marriage has been building steadily, among voters and in some of the churches themselves. It now seems likely that Denmark will soon follow Sweden’s example. This is not surprising – they have similar religious traditions, and similar social outlooks. Denmark was the first country in the world to approve civil unions, but has been slow to convert to full marriage. However, 1997 the bishops approved church “blessings” of civil unions, as long as the words “husband” and “wife” were omitted, so there’s not a long way to go.
Now the government is considering a proposal to go the whole way, and allow full religious weddings. With almost two thirds of voters expressing support for the measure, and six out of ten bishops also ready to agree, it looks like an open goal just waiting for the final push.

Apart from the obvious impact for the Danes themselves, there are two important implications for the rest of us. It provides further evidence of steady growth in support by voters, thus increasing the pressure on the remaining countries of the EU to folllow suit; and it shows that even religious leaders are accepting that there is at least room for dissenting interpretations of the old clobber texts in Scripture. The more we see major religious groups like the ECLA, Episcopalians, Swedish and Danish Lutherans conducting gay marriages, the more difficult it becomes for the religious right to persuade moderate voters that religion “demands” gay exclusion
From AFP:

Two thirds of Danes back gay Church weddings

Nearly two thirds of Danes support a call to allow gay and lesbian couples to be married by the Church, a poll showed Wednesday.
Denmark was the world’s first country to allow a civil union for homosexuals, in 1989, but its parliament is now split over a move by the centre-left opposition to amend the law to allow religious weddings too.
The minister for religion Birthe Roenn Hornbech has urged lawmakers to think the question through in-depth before reaching any decision.
But according to a poll published by the Christian daily Kristelig Dagbladet on Wednesday, 63 percent of the Danish population would be happy to see gay couples married at the altar.
A quarter of respondents said they would oppose the move, while 12 percent gave no opinion, according to the Capacent Research poll of 1,304 people carried out of March 5.
Separately, the Berlingske Tidende daily found that six out of 10 bishops with the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church would agree to see gay couples make their vows in Church.
Enhanced by Zemanta