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.

The Pope’s Letter to Irish Catholics

Derivative Work. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Po...
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Having read Pope Benedict’s XVI pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, I can say I my respect for him and the Vatican has increased.

He has apologised on behalf of the church and is sending an Apostolic Visitation for certain Diocese. It will be interesting to see which ones.

I have reproduced part of the letter below,

6. To the victims of abuse and their families

You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering. He understands the depths of your pain and its enduring effect upon your lives and your relationships, including your relationship with the Church. I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred. Yet Christ’s own wounds, transformed by his redemptive sufferings, are the very means by which the power of evil is broken and we are reborn to life and hope. I believe deeply in the healing power of his self-sacrificing love – even in the darkest and most hopeless situations – to bring liberation and the promise of a new beginning.

Speaking to you as a pastor concerned for the good of all God’s children, I humbly ask you to consider what I have said. I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity – you will come to rediscover Christ’s infinite love for each one of you. I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace.

7. To priests and religious who have abused children

You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life.

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God’s justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.

……

14. I now wish to propose to you some concrete initiatives to address the situation.

At the conclusion of my meeting with the Irish bishops, I asked that Lent this year be set aside as a time to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in your country. I now invite all of you to devote your Friday penances, for a period of one year, between now and Easter 2011, to this intention. I ask you to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland. I encourage you to discover anew the sacrament of Reconciliation and to avail yourselves more frequently of the transforming power of its grace.

Particular attention should also be given to Eucharistic adoration, and in every diocese there should be churches or chapels specifically devoted to this purpose. I ask parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries to organize periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part. Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.

I am confident that this programme will lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland in the fullness of God’s own truth, for it is the truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32).

Furthermore, having consulted and prayed about the matter, I intend to hold an Apostolic Visitation of certain dioceses in Ireland, as well as seminaries and religious congregations. Arrangements for the Visitation, which is intended to assist the local Church on her path of renewal, will be made in cooperation with the competent offices of the Roman Curia and the Irish Episcopal Conference. The details will be announced in due course.

I also propose that a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious. It is my hope that, by drawing on the expertise of experienced preachers and retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, and by exploring anew the conciliar documents, the liturgical rites of ordination and profession, and recent pontifical teaching, you will come to a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers you through his Church.

Read the full letter here. It is worth reading.

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Blasphemous Libel

Okay so the whole Blasphemous Libel thing has taken off and is a cluster on Irish Blogs and a lot of people are up in arms about it. Some posts are offensive to some people. As pointed out to me on twitter. As blasphemy is a crime according to the constitution, it has never been so in criminal law. But what is Blasphemy?

According to the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia (On Reference.com)

blasphemy, in religion, words or actions that display irreverence toward or contempt for God or that which is held sacred. Blasphemy is regarded as an offense against the community to varying degrees, depending on the extent of the identification of a religion with the society at large or the government.

It goes on

Blasphemy has been a crime in many religions and cultures, wherever there is something sacred to protect. Socrates was prosecuted for blasphemy, and Mosaic law prescribed death for cursing the name of God.

It also states

Secular modern states often retain blasphemy laws, but they are infrequently enforced.

In South Austrailia in 1977  the Criminal Law and Penal Methods Reform Committee stated that “today it would seem anachronistic to charge anyone with blasphemous libel.” (Law Reform Commission New South Wales, Discussion Paper 24(1992) – Blasphemy). So why are we making it an offence now?

England and Wales abolished the offence of Blasphemy in July last year, and here we are, a secular republic introducing this archane law. Would hate speech not cover this want they want to do here?

My big issue here is that as a non-christian who does not believe in one all powerfull god. Also under Islam, blasphemy is

speaking ill of Muhammad or of any other prophet mentioned in the Qur’an, or to claim that there is more than one god or that Jesus Christ (the son of Mary) is the son of God, or to speak ill of God.

So that means under this legislation a Priest could be taken to court under this law for Blasphemous Libel as it stands.

Its strange considering out own Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution recommended that blasphemy should be dropped from the Constitution here is our Government trying to bring it in.

I am amazed and concerned.

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