2013 has been dubbed the “Year of gay marriage”. Pope Francis was named “Person of the Yea” by gay magazine the Advocate, and as number two “Gay Rights Hero of the Year” by New Yorker magazine. The words of the Psalm for today’s Mass will theerefore have particular cogency for LGBT Christians, as we await the celebration of the incarnation of Christ, later this week.
The story from Luke’s Gospel, telling of Zacceus in the sycamore tree, has a direct parallel with the situation of gay men and lesbians in the Christian churches. Zaccheus is a tax collector, and so seen as an outcast, an obvious sinner, in Jewish society. Yet even so, Jesus not only accepts him, he invites himself to Zaccheus’ home.
Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’
The smooth certainty of the right is just as unattractive as the moral smugness of the left
The question of the hour is whether the Episcopal Church can continue to muddle into a sixth century, or whether falling levels of membership suggest inevitable decline. Critics such as Douthat link the church’s progressive stand on sexuality — the consecration of an openly gay bishop in 2003 and now the vote on the same-sex rite — to its troubled numbers. “It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows,” wrote Douthat. “But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.”
Eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes. As I read it, his argument, shared by many, is that the church is essentially translating liberal views of sexuality into the language and forms of the faith. If the Bible speaks out against homosexuality, then a church that moves to embrace homosexuals must be acting not according to theological thinking but to political factors. Put another way, the Episcopal Church has taken the course it has taken on sexuality because it is politically fashionable to do so, not because there is a theological reason to open its arms wider.
The problem with this argument is that it ignores a long tradition of evolving theological understanding and changing scriptural interpretation. Only the most unapologetic biblical fundamentalists, for instance, take every biblical injunction literally. If we all took all scripture at the same level of authority, then we would be more open to slavery, to the subjugation of women, to wider use of stoning. Jesus himself spoke out frequently against divorce in the strongest of terms. Yet we have — often gradually — chosen to read and interpret the Bible in light not of tradition but of reason and history.
-full commentary by John Meacham at TIME.com.
- US church approves gay blessings (BBC)
- Can Liberal Christianity be Saved? (Ross Douthat, New York Times)
- Can Non- liberal Christianity be Saved? (Patheos)
- For Douthat, Church Either Uncompromising or a Secular Den of Promiscuity (Relition Dispatches)
Starting in December, the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts will let clergy bless gay couples, a change announced after a national Episcopalian convention this month approved a new rite for same-sex relationships.
The diocese will continue to forbid clergy from performing gay marriages, something its Eastern Massachusetts counterpart allows. But in an interview last week, the incoming Western Massachusetts bishop said he plans on asking worshipers whether they want to revisit the prohibition.
By a wide margin, Episcopalians at this month’s national General Convention approved a new rite blessing same-sex relationships. Each diocese in the country can decide whether to perform the blessing.
Following the convention, the Diocese of Western Massachusetts announced it would give parishes the option to perform the same-sex blessing.
Bishop-elect Douglas John Fisher, who will succeed Bishop Gordon Paul Scruton in December, called the resolution “a big move in the right direction.”
“This is a great development for our gay brothers and sisters, and we hope to celebrate that with them starting in December,” Fisher said in an interview.
While the new ritual will not constitute nuptials, Fisher left open the possibility the diocese may ultimately approve gay marriage, following the lead of the Eastern Massachusetts diocese, which sanctioned such services in 2009.
“When I get there, I’ll certainly be having those conversations,” said Fisher, currently rector of Grace Church in Millbrook, N.Y. “We’ll see where all of that leads.”
– full report at The Boston Globe.
- Episcopalians Approve Rite to Bless Same-Sex Unions (nytimes.com)
- Episcopal Church approves same-sex blessing rite (kansascity.com)
- US church approves gay blessings (bbc.co.uk)
On July 8, TransLutherans was announced as a new affinity group in ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation at our assembly in Washington, D.C. Thanks to the board for approving the formation of this group at its 2012 spring meeting in Minneapolis. TransLutherans has been a long time in the making. A word or two about the history of this process is in order.
The board of LC/NA approved a resolution in the fall of 2002 to add transgender and bisexual to our vision and mission statements, and a task force was formed to integrate this work into the RIC program. In 2003 transgender and bisexual identities were to be included in all subsequent mission statements of congregations who were to become RIC. All congregations previously approved as RIC were asked to update their statements as well. Many chose to use the wording “all sexual orientations and gender identities.” Those gathered at the final business session of the 2010 biennial assembly of LC/NA in Minneapolis approved a resolution to
- increase transgender and bisexual training opportunities for board, staff, and Regional Coordinators,
- create a national speakers bureau qualified to provide education,
- commit the Legislative team and trans/bi/queer communities to work together to create resolutions for synod and church wide assemblies.
These resolutions would expand the welcome of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to specifically include trans*, bi and all people affected by binary gender oppression.
– full report at Huffington Post
- Telling Trans-Faith Stories (queerchurchnews.wordpress.com)
- The Truth in Transgender: Will the Episcopal Church Amend Its Rules? (queerchurchnews.wordpress.com)
- Washington Methodist Minister: Gay Marriage Is ‘The Right Thing To Do’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- Minnesota Lutherans reject gay marriage ban (queeringthechurch.com)
Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Berlin has re-affirmed his support for same-sex relationships which he made at a German conference of Catholic lay people back in May.
London’s Tablet magazine, an international Catholic periodical, reports:
“The Church must rethink its approach to remarried divorcees and gay relationships, the world’s youngest cardinal has said.
“Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, 55, made his comments in an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit and said that while the Orthodox Church considers only the first marriage sacramentally valid, divorce and a second marriage is tolerated. Asked whether this could be a model for the Catholic Church, he replied that the Church should talk about it.
Commenting on gay men in relationships he said he tried not to see them as just violating natural law but as people trying to take responsibility for each other in lasting partnerships. ‘We must find a way of allowing people to live without going against church teaching,’ he said.”
– more at New Ways/ Bondings 2.0.
- ‘Rethink line on divorce and gays’
- Lesbian Kindergarden Head’s Sacking by Catholic Church is Allowed by Court
- Cardinal Moelki: What He Said, In Context.
- German Cardinal, on Equality of Same – Sex Relationships.
- Cardinal Calls for Equality of Heterosexual and Homosexual Relationships (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
- A Giant, Hopeful Step in the Direction of Full Equality (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
- QUOTE TO NOTE: Cardinal Basil Hume on Love (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
- World’s Youngest Cardinal Equates Heterosexual, Homosexual Relations (cathcon.blogspot.co.uk)
The Episcopal Church in the US is to debate a blessing rite for gay couples who wish to marry.
The church only recognises marriage as being between a man and a woman and supporters of the blessing rite emphasise that it is not a sacrament and would not confer marriage on a couple.
However, if approved, the liturgy would be the first such rite endorsed by a major US denomination.
Titled “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant”, it would allow for the exchange of rings.
In 2009, during its last General Convention, the church approved language encouraging bishops to give “generous pastoral response” to gay couples in states with marriage equality.
The church’s General Convention starts today in Indianapolis and the liturgy will be debated on Saturday. It requires the approval of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies.
In 2003, the Episcopal Church ordained the first openly gay bishop, Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
- Episcopalians Review a New Rite for Gay Unions (frstephensmuts.wordpress.com)
- Episcopalians debate transgender inclusion in ministry (news.yahoo.com)
- Episcopal Church May Soon Bless Same-Sex Marriages (towleroad.com)
- The Truth in Transgender: Will the Episcopal Church Amend Its Rules? (queerchurchnews.wordpress.com)
- Pondering a blessing for same-sex couples (philly.com)