The Church of England and THAT House of Bishops Report

Last Friday the House of Bishops of the Church of England published a report entitled “Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations“. It runs to 19 pages and was eagerly awaited by those of us interested in the debate on LGBT+ relationships in the Anglican Communion. The report will be the subject of a ‘takes note’ debate at General Synod in February.

I for one am despondent due to its tone and content. It suggests no change for the church nor does it paint a path forward for anything to change. The language is non-inclusive and full of otherness. It talks of “Same-Sex Attraction” rather than Same-Sex Relationships. It complete ignores Bisexuality.

Now I am not a stake holder in the Church of England, but I am part of the wider Anglican Communion. I have been lucky to make friends in the Church of England, Gay and Straight. I am part of organisations for LGBT+ Christians in the UK and Ireland. Seeing this report and seeing the pain of my LGBT+ Anglican siblings in England is heart wrenching. I cannot remain silent and want to point you in a few directions where people have written responses to the report and some give ideas for going forward.

Fr Pip – The old order. The C of E, LGBT and holding on.

Quiet Vicar – Chasing Shadows…..and getting very cross with the House of Bishops

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes – Sex and the bishops

Jayne Ozanne (Statement) – Unbelievable, Unacceptable and Ungodly.

Rachel Mann – More Dust: Personal Response to the Statement on Sexuality

Kelvin Holdsworth – How to change the Church of England – a quick recap

Good luck to all. I pray that you will eventually succeed!

Orlando – A Gay Christian’s response

pulese“I’ve been waiting all week for this. A Saturday night out with the boys. Maybe I’ll meet someone. Always a chance of that in Pulse”

Replace ‘Pulse’ in the above with any gay club or bar in any city around the world and that is probably the thoughts of some those there. It’s normally similar to mine on Friday or Saturday night out in Cork.

But for those attending Pulse in Orlando, Florida on Saturday night, it all ended so differently, so tragically. when a gunman opened fire and killed 50 people, and injured countless others. Members of the LGBT*Q Community, just like me.

It’s hard to figure out mu feelings on this. I’m hurt, angry, heartbroken, shocked, vulnerable and sad. I’m angry that this could happen. That someone could target people just because of who they are, who they love, how they were created.

But we cannot respond in kind. We cannot blame a particular religion, or all religions, for one man’s actions. We must be better than this. If we react to hate with hate, then hate wins. Martin Luther King speaking in 1963 said

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction … The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

lgbt half mastWe must now reach out the hand of comfort to out LGBT*Q Brothers and sisters in Florida who are hurt, grief-stricken, and scared. We must reach out to those who mourn the loss of family friends and friends. We must also look out for those in the world-wide LGBT*Q Community for whom the fear of attacks, rape and murder are a daily fear.

But on the other hand we must also reach out the hand of understanding to our Muslim Brothers and Sisters here and the US as they face the inevitable backlash due to one man’s actions.

We in the LGBT*Q Community must continue to stand tall, roar loudly to be treated equally, demand our place in the Public Square, and not bow our heads in shame because of who we are pr who we love. We must do this, not just for ourselves, but those worse off. The members of the LGBT*Q Community who still live in countries where it is illegal to be gay, for LGBT*Q Muslims, and for LGBT*Q Refugees.

Those of us in religions must continue to work hard to ensure an affirming welcome for all in our churches, temples, mosques and synagogues. This work isn’t easy, nor should it be. But we cannot put limits on God’s love that is open to all.

Vigils are being held in Ireland this week in remembrance for those who died. Tonight In Dublin Belong To, GLEN – GAY AND LESBIAN EQUALITY NETWORK and Transgender Equality Network Ireland are in Bernardo’s Square (beside City Hall on Dame Street, Dublin 2) at 6.30pm Monday and also in Tralee tonight at 9pm in the Square.

In Galway on Wednesday in Eyre Square organised by Amach and also in Cork on Wednesday.

Further Reading:

Thoughts on Orlando – UCC Express Editorial

Queer Muslims exist – and we are in mourning too – The Guardian

Time to Change the Question?

queen-james-gay-bibleAs many of you know I am a member of the Church of Ireland and this particular church is currently undertaking a “Listening Process” on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief. Or put another way, “what do we do about LGBT Christians?”.

Should the church welcome them with arms open and allow them to be full members of the church, bless their relationships, ordain them and basically treat them the same as everyone else.

Or should we create a separate class for them? Should we allow them to attend services and partake in Eucharist and that be the end of it.

Which one the Church based on the teaching of Jesus Christ should pick is, what I thought fairly straight forward, but turns out I am wrong.

I think the question is framed wrong. Its making those who are LGBT the problem, their not!

A recent post over on Hacking Christianity by Dr Dorothee Benz on the recent developments in the United Methodist Church has this to say:

My second beef with the Hamilton-Slaughter proposal is that it further problematizes LGBTQ people as the source of division in the church. In this regard, I am particularly disappointed with progressives who embrace it (including some good friends), seemingly unaware that the framing of the entire thing feeds the false narrative that the problem in the church is homosexuality – i.e., our very existence. Why is the opening line of this proposal, “The ongoing debate over homosexuality continues to divide the United Methodist Church” and not “The ongoing debate over homophobia continues to divide the United Methodist Church?” Seriously, why? We are not the problem; discrimination is the problem.

LGBTQ people are not the first, nor will we be the last, to be blamed for tensions and divisions in the church. Our church has been mired in conflict over its support for slavery and segregation and its exclusion of women from ordained ministry. Each of these sins of exclusion were corrected after decades of tension, division, debate, and yes in some cases schism. Moving past these forms of bigotry required great struggle in the church. And not for nothing, these struggles are not mere historical artifacts. That much should be clear from the 2012 General Conference attack on the General Commission on Religion and Race, the Committee on the Status and Role of Women, and the guaranteed appointment system that has served to protect those who would otherwise fall victim to employment discrimination. The point is that struggle is not something to be avoided; rather it is the crucible in which we create a better, more inclusive church. We need to engage in the struggle to change our church, not try to sidestep our way around it.

I believe Dr. Benz hits the nail on the head. LGBT people have always been involved in the Church and they have never been the problem. The problem is how others treated them!

We all know the stories of how Churches around the world treated LGBT people and the awful results, but now the Church needs to buck up. They need to realise as Pastor Carl Lenz of the Pentacostal Hillsong NYC Church put it,

‘Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent.’

‘And I’m still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people. You won’t find it because he never did.

This is the crux of it. The biblical argument on Homosexuality is of course based on Leviticus 18:22. Now I have no problem with that, but if your going to base your argument on that, their are 75 other rules in Leviticus that you must also obey!

Now if you do live your life by the 76 rules in Leviticus or the 613 commandments across the entire bible, more power to you!

But of course, in the New Testament, Jesus Christ added two very important commandments, which is said at most Church of Ireland Services:

“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

These two laws are supposed to be what the entire Church rests on. The Church should not be about who is included or who is excluded. It is should be about God’s love for all his creations. We do not get to decide who receives it, as individuals or as a Church.

I am lucky, I know, with the Church and the Diocese I am in. The Rector and congregation of St Annes have welcomed me fully. I now am Minister of the Eucharist, A member of The Select Vestry, a Parochial Nominator and I represent the Parish at the Cork Cloyne and Ross Diocesan Synod and the welcome I recieved at Synod by the Bishop and other clergy was humbling.

But the Church of Ireland can continue to talk and listen, while individual parishes and dioceses continue to live and do the work of God and welcome all who come, straight, gay, married, single, homeowner, homeless, employed, unemployed, or any other label applied to people by society.

Remember Jesus did not hang around with influential people. He hung around with shepherds, fisherman, tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans and other outsiders throughout his ministry.

The Church should follow that example fully.