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.

No Longer Standing on the Sidelines

The Chapel Street in Cork with The Church of S...
The Chapel Street in Cork with The Church of St Anne in Shandon Tower. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some of you have been aware that I was blogging about the General Synod of the Church of Ireland (which ended yesterday) and the Motion on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief over on Spirituality Ireland (Here, here, here and here). The motion was passed 243 votes to 87 votes after one of the longest debates in many years at General Synod. The vote broke down by house as:

  • Clergy 81-53 in favour
  • Laity 154-60 in favour
  • Bishops 10-2 in favour

The fact that this motion passed saddened me greatly and prompted a bit of soul searching and questioning of faith. Some people have suggested that I leave the church, and I am not the only one has thought about that. But I cannot do that. The Church has been there for me in times of crisis, and now is a time when the Church needs to people to speak up. To demand an Inclusive Church.

This morning I attended the International Day Against Homophobia Service in St Anne’s Shandon. This is a regular event in Cork and is always a lovely service. Today it held more meaning for me. When the Rev’d Brian O’Rourke began the Service, he apologised for the Motion being passed. He spoke against and revealed it had caused him to question his ministry.

The Service was wonderful and uplifting and today’s Gospel (which wasn’t especially picked, it is today’s reading) was the perfect one.

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’

–  Gospel according to John, Chapter 15

If we want an inclusive Church we need to take this to heart. We are very lucky in Cork to have Parishes like St Anne’s Union, St Fin Barre’s Union, Kilmocogue Union, Chapel of Christ the Healer at Cork University Hospital and Kinneigh Union among others which are Inclusive Churches. We are also lucky with our Bishop, Dean and many Clergy who want the Church of Ireland to be inclusive.

For this to happen, I belive, I can no longer stand on the sidelines of my faith. I must be involved in the Church and my Parish to ensure that is and remains a welcoming and inclusive church for all.

No way on 8a. Church of Ireland regressing on Homosexuality?

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, the episcopal...
Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, the episcopal seat of the pre-Reformation and Church of Ireland archbishops. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the course of the weekend, a resolution before the Church of Ireland Synod, which meets on Thursday, was brought to my attention. Resolution 8a (PDF) according to the a group of LGB Church of Ireland will make LGB members and unmarried cohabiting couples second class citizens of the church.

By stating that faithfulness within marriage is the only ‘normative’ context for sex, Resolution 8A imposes a condition that people in faithful same-gender relationships cannot comply with. The implication that members of the Church of Ireland in relationships other than marriage are in breach of the Catechism gives legitimacy, for the first time, to excluding lay people in same-gender relationships from Holy Communion.

At the conference on homosexuality in March, some clergy said they refused the Sacrament to people in faithful same-gender relationships. The Bishops have done nothing to challenge such behaviour yet claim the right to lecture us about our relationships with the people we love.

Resolution 8A provides a pretext to launch witch-hunts against gay clergy in liberal Dioceses. This has happened in the Anglican Church in Australia since similar motions were passed by their General Synod in 2004.

Although Resolution 8A has been drafted to say all things to all people, once an official statement of policy is passed, the intentions of its drafters are irrelevant. History is littered with motions and legislation that functioned in ways contrary to the wishes of their drafters.

Nine years ago, our Bishops promised to start listening to us. This year, they see fit to table high-handed motions at General Synod while kicking the long-promised listening process into touch for another year. Most people would find the idea of beginning a consultation process after passing official policies odd, to say the least.

These Resolutions should have been brought through the normal democratic procedures of the Church of Ireland, but were not. They have been sprung upon members of General Synod allowing no time for wider debate in the Church. By doing so, those Bishops disrespect our Church’s democracy. Putting off this debate for a year or two to allow real listening will hardly kill us.

You can sign the Open Letter here and of course do check out the full webiste8anoway.com.

For me reading the resolutions, it does read more like old-fashioned Roman Catholic teaching and not the welcoming teaching I found within the Church of Ireland when I started to attend services in Cork.

This resolution means events like the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) Service on Sunday 13th in St Anne’s at 11am very important within the Church and hopefully can be used as fight back against this resolution.

IDAHO 2010

IDAHO2010

Changing Attitudes Ireland is again organising events for International Day Against Homophobia in Belfast, Cork and Dublin. While IDAHO is on the 17th May, the events will take place on the preceding Sunday 16th of May. The theme this year is “Open Doors”, which I think is very fitting for a church dealing with this issue.

In Belfast the service will take place at St. George’s Church, High Street at 15.00hrs. Following the service between 16.15-16.45hrs. in St. George’s Hall, there will be the launch of a Resource Booklet “Share your Story” – Gay and Lesbian Experiences of Church at which the Speaker will be Revd. David Cooper (Methodist).

In Dublin the service will take place at Christ Church Cathedral at 15.30hrs. In Cork the service will take place at St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral Cork at 19.00hrs.

Having attended last years service on the theme Don’t Throw Stones, I am looking forward to this years service.

Do go along if you get a chance, I know this event helped me a lot last year.

There is more information, including the order of Service(PDF) on the Changing Attitudes Ireland website

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Armstice Day

Scarlet poppy with neighbors
Image by Martin LaBar via Flickr

I am not sure if many people i Ireland are aware of the promises made by people today attending Rembrenance Day and Armstice Day Services make a very poignant promise during the service. Maybe we should all make this promise.

Let us commit ourselves to responsible living and faithful service

Will you strive for all that matters for peace?

We will

Will you work seek to heal the wounds of war?

We will

Will you work for a just future for all humanity?

We will

Merciful God, we offer to you he fears in us that have not yet been cast out by love; may we accept the hope you have placed in the hearts of all people, and the live lives of justice, courage and mercy; through Jesus Christ our risen redeemer.

Amen

Something for us all to consider on this day?


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Illegal in Ireland: Blasphemy

Picture of Christ Church Lisburn, Northern Ireland
Image via Wikipedia

Well it has happened. The President has signed the Defamation Bill into law today which means in Ireland you can now be prosecuted for blasphemy. Yes that is right, in this Ireland of the 21st Century I can no longer complain about God, Jehovah, Allah, The Flying Spagetti Monster, or any other deity in case I get prosecuted for the crime of blasphemous libel.

Now while I am a church going person (Church of Ireland), with a healthy respect for himself upstairs, I don’t he (or any other deity) is going to be too upset if an unbeliever blasphemes against him (or her or them). Are priest now going to have to be very careful with what they say in their sermons if they mention another religion.

Its crazy that in this day and age I have to be very careful in what I type, say, tweet or what ever in case someone takes offense in what I say and decides to try and bring a prosecution against me.

Its a bollocks to be honest. I agree with my Bishop, its time to take Blasphemy out of the Irish Constitution!

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