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    • “Embodied Ministry” Theological Educators Conference April 15, 2014
      Rev Jane Fraser has described her journey as a female Anglican priest, in an article in CSCS News (Winter 2013), titled “Reflections on a ‘ministry in sex employment“. She explains that this rather odd description of her work arose when…Read more →
      Terence Weldon
    • The Biblical Case for Gay Marriage April 10, 2014
      In Denver today, judges of the USA Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments for and against the ban on same – sex marriage in Utah. Next week, they will hear arguments for a similar case in Oklahoma.…Read more →
      Terence Weldon
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    • Where Are You? October 26, 2011
      Greetings to all others who grace these pages! Thank you for stopping by. If you still have a reader pointed here, this blog no longer publishes in this location, but can be found at this new link. Please subscribe to the new feed, get the new blog via email or read us by liking us on Facebook or by following me on Twitter.If you want more, please feel free […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Fran)
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    • Diamond Head April 15, 2014
      On Friday, April 4, I visited Diamond Head with my brother Tim and sister-in-law Ros. Diamond Head is just south of Port Macquarie.As you'll see from the following images, it's a very beautiful part of the Australian southeast coast.Images: Michael J. Bayly.
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • The Way of the Wounded Healer April 14, 2014
      Continuing with The Wild Reed's 2014 Holy Week series, here is a second excerpt from John Neafsey's book A Sacred Voice is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Justice. (For Part One of this series, click here.)As with all the excerpts from Neafsey's book shared in this series, this second one focuses on suffering, a key theme in the Gospel n […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
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    • Pope Francis On The Possibility of Married Priests April 12, 2014
      For some reason when discussing the priest shortage, one rarely hears that one big reason is the increase in lay Catholics.  That the increase in Catholic laity is mirrored by the decrease in Catholic priests makes for an interesting statistical picture....... and in a not good kind of way.   Pope Francis has been in office for just over a year and finally h […]
      colkoch
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    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
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    • SWAAG April 7, 2014
      A bit of whimsy for these dark days - thanks to one of my Czech students, 14 year old Honza.Not much to cheer about in the Catholic Church these days (see here) or in the world at large, environmental disaster pending, the possibility of WWIII sparked by the crisis in the Ukraine, my own country USA behaving like a psychopathic madman out of control and seek […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Jayden Cameron)
    • Bishop Gene Robinson prays for Pope Francis March 16, 2014
      I lifted this article whole (and shamelessly) from The Daily Beast.For any readers not familiar with Bishop Gene Robinson he is the first openly gay Anglican bishop in the US. I love this new pope. I pray for him every day—for his ministry, his safety, and the daunting tasks that lay before him. I like all the connotations of “Francis,” the papal name he too […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Jayden Cameron)
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    • 埼玉のプロミス、詳細を教えて! January 22, 2014
      埼玉には自動契約機の店舗だけではなく店頭窓口もあります。店頭窓口というのはお客様サービスプラザのこと。そこでは相談することもできますし、さまざまな疑問点を解消することもできます。金利や返済方法などはプロミスの公式ホームページにも記載されていますので自分の目で確認することができます。そして返済方式も残高スライド元利定額返済方式という記載がありますので確認することができるでしょう。しかし。残高スライド元利定額返済方式とはどんなものなのかご存知でしょうか。金利は比較するまでもなくほぼ一律。実は返済総額に大きく影響するのは一律となる金利よりも返済方式になるものです。残高スライド元利定額返済方式。非常に長い名称にはなっていますが理解しておいた方がよいでしょう。これは返済時にある残元金、これに定率となる割合を掛けて返済額を […]
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    • Hercules and confession April 15, 2014
      - Hercules reads a message from NemesisMy latest DVD from the library is the first season of Hercules. I decided to pick it up because it's connected to some good memories .... I had been watching reruns of the series on tv back when my mom and cats were all still alive and while I was in RCIA class. The reason I especially remember RCIA is that towards […]
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)

Roman Catholic & Lutheran interaction: “grass roots ecumenism”

LWF President Younan Invites Pope Benedict XVI to Help Plan 500th Anniversary Commemoration

LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, assisted by General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, presents Pope Benedict XVI with a gift from Bethlehem depicting the Last Supper. Second from left is Vatican employee Francesco Cavaliere.

Leaders of the Lutheran World Federation recently met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.  Before considering the report of this latest meeting, here’s the background:

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF now has 145 member churches in 79 countries all over the world representing over 70 million Christians.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is a prominent member of the Federation, and ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson recently completed a term as President of the LWF.  No other Lutheran denomination in the US belongs to LWF.  Since the ELCA is often criticized by other Lutherans for its social activism, it is hardly surprising that the ELCA is the only U.S. Lutheran denomination participatory in the LWF.  Perusing the LWF website suggests advocacy roles regarding:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Climate change
  • Illegitimate debt
  • Refugee support
  • Clean water and sanitation in Asian third world countries
    In a November 15th address, current LWF President Dr Munib A. Younan (Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and the successor to ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson) stated:

We are called to work to eradicate poverty, to be prophetic against injustice, to be bridge builders between South and North and East and West, to strengthen our sisters and brothers who suffer or find discrimination because of their faith, and to be responsible for the integrity of creation.

In response to the impulse toward ecumenism following Vatican II, Roman Catholics and Lutherans representing the LWF engaged in years of theological discussions that culminated in a joint statement on the doctrine of justification in 1999.  According to Wikipedia,

The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a document created by and agreed to by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999, as a result of extensive ecumenical dialogue, ostensibly resolving the conflict over the nature of justification which was at the root of the Protestant Reformation.

The Churches acknowledged that the excommunications relating to the doctrine of justification set forth by the Council of Trent do not apply to the teachings of the Lutheran churches set forth in the text; likewise, the churches acknowledged that the condemnations set forth in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the Catholic teachings on justification set forth in the document. Confessional Lutherans, such as the International Lutheran Council and the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, reject the Declaration.

On July 18, 2006, members of the World Methodist Council, meeting in Seoul, South Korea, voted unanimously to adopt this document as well.

Bishop Hanson at LWFLast summer after his term as LWF President had ended, ELCA Presiding Bishop was asked about the status of ecumenical relations with the Vatican:

The president had been asked if he could envisage a day when a Roman Catholic and Lutheran married couple could commune together with the blessing of both churches. It is the lay people of the churches who are driving and sustaining these conversations, he responded, acknowledging the “grassroots ecumenism” that is alive among lay people. While leaders wrestle with difficult theological issues, “lay people of different churches pray together, study together and work together to build just societies. “If Roman Catholics and Lutherans [for example] can feed the hungry together, wouldn’t it be good if they could be fed at the Lord’s Table together?”

Hanson acknowledged that he is unlikely to see all Christian churches communing together in his lifetime, but “if I can contribute to that vision being realized I’ll be very grateful.”

Here is personal, anecdotal evidence of the grass roots ecumenism of which Hanson speaks.

I hail from Upsala, Minnesota, originally a Swedish community that actually had a Ku Klux Klan chapter in the anti-German days of WWI, but the purpose of the chapter was not to repress blacks (there were none) but to keep Catholics out of Upsala.  The local Swedes covenanted with each other that they would not sell real estate to Catholic purchasers.  Didn’t work.

St Mary's in UpsalaSkip ahead to 1954, and the Roman Catholic church building from nearby St. Francis in largely German-Catholic Stearns County was moved slowly on rollers five miles north to a prominent place on main street in Upsala.  A very real and symbolic movement of the German Catholics from the south that corresponded with an influx of Polish Catholics from the east (Bowlus, Sobieski, Little Falls).  Grandma Hilma was sure the end times were near.

But, by the 70’s, the Lutheran pastor, the Roman Catholic priest, and the pastor from the Covenant church joined together in a singing group that appeared at nursing homes and elsewhere and also jointly organized a senior center in Upsala.   Local clergy continue to work together in an active ministerial association (the only non-participant is the pastor from the small Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregation in town).

Most recently, in just the last few months, the Roman Catholics replaced that wooden building that had been relocated to Upsala fifty-six years ago, but the new building would be on the same site as the old one.  Where to gather for mass during construction?  My old congregation, perhaps including the descendants of those who once covenanted to keep the Catholics out of town, offered the use of their facilities and insisted that no rent or remuneration would be accepted.

Construction was completed early in December, and the Catholics at St Mary’s are proudly worshiping in their own building once again.  And, the Lutherans from Gethsemane will soon be their guests for a day when the regular Gethsemane Sunday worship service will move to the new Sanctuary of St. Mary’s, to be followed by a brunch hosted by their Catholic friends.  Just as the Catholics celebrated their Eucharist in the Lutheran church building, the Lutherans will now celebrate their Eucharist in the Catholic church building.  I suspect the folks at both St Mary’s and Gethsemane would be just fine taking the final step and actually celebrating the Eucharist together but for official Roman Catholic policy, but the symbolism of the current events is a striking example of grass roots ecumenism.

This brings us back to the beginning, and the recent meeting between LWF leadership and Pope Benedict XVI.  Here’s the report from the LWF website:

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan has invited Pope Benedict XVI to work together with the Lutheran communion in realizing an ecumenically accountable commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

“For us there is joy in the liberating power of the gospel proclaimed afresh by the reformers, and we will celebrate that,” said Younan in a message today, when he led a seven-member delegation in a private audience with the Pope. He underlined the need to recognize both the damaging aspects of the Reformation and ecumenical progress.

“But we cannot achieve this ecumenical accountability on our own, without your help. Thus we invite you to work together with us in preparing this anniversary, so that in 2017 we are closer to sharing in the Bread of Life than we are today.”

Secondly, Bishop Younan expressed similar sentiments to those of Bishop Hanson about the continuing inability of Catholics and Lutherans to celebrate the Eucharist together.

In his statement, Younan reiterated the LWF’s commitment to “moving closer toward one another around this Table of the Lord, which Luther saw as the summa evangelii.” The LWF president pointed out that while it was important to “rejoice in each small step which brings us closer together, we do not want to be content with these steps. We remain strong in hope – both for the full visible unity of Christ’s Church and for the Eucharistic communion which is so crucial a manifestation of that unity.”

I studied with the School of Theology at St John’s Abbey and University in the early ‘90’s.  Once a week, the resident students hosted a meal for the non-residents followed by a mass.  But, a couple of seminarians protested that this was contrary to Catholic doctrine because many of the non-residents were non-Catholics , and the joint mass was discontinued–to the common pain of most of us, Catholic and Protestant alike.  In defense of this exclusive policy, one seminarian suggested that when the rest of us accepted the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist, then we would be welcomed.  By that standard, I shouldn’t be celebrating communion with most Lutherans, since I’m sure we don’t all share the same understanding; nor is the understanding of the communing children in our congregation likely to be anywhere close to the understanding of the adults.

At the joint meeting, the Pontiff expressed continuing support for ecumenical dialogue without addressing Catholic exclusivity around the communion rail.

Cross posted at Spirit of a Liberal blog.

Call to Action: progressive Catholics hold a convention

Along with a couple thousand others, I spent the weekend in Milwaukee attending the annual convention of Call to Action (CTA), a beleaguered group of progressive Roman Catholics.  The conservative retrenchment of the Vatican and the American bishops marches on, and one wonders what the future holds for Catholic progressives.  I met hundreds of interesting persons with fascinating stories: former priests and nuns who are now married, many gays or parents of gays, and numerous women who have recently been ordained to the priesthood or who are anticipating ordination in the near future.

“What,” you ask, “women ordained as Catholic priests?”

Roman Catholic Womenpriests is a movement less than a decade old that began with the 2002 ordination of seven women (six Europeans and one American).  Since then, the movement is growing rapidly (despite excommunications), and I can attest to a sense of vibrancy at the Womenpriests’ booth that attracted an earnest crowd.  One of the priests at the exhibit told me that their booth at the 2008 CTA Convention attracted a few curiosity seekers, but overall the mood was “don’t get too close to these excommunicated dissidents”.  Last year, at the 2009 CTA convention, she reported that the fear of contagion had dissipated and the curiosity level had increased dramatically.  This year, the Womenpriests booth was filled with visitors who had moved beyond curiosity to genuine interest.  Their US map with red and green dots signifying locations of ordained womenpriests and pending ordinations was a hit with many asking for more specifics so they could attend a nearby Eucharist celebrated by female clergy.

Are progressive Catholics coming to the realization that their future lies outside the patriarchal hierarchy and beyond the control of the Vatican?  If so, where?  If not, how can progressive Catholics effect reform within the existing conservative power structures?

Enter the American Catholic Council.  The Council also had an energetic presence at the CTA conference, passing out brochures inviting all to a Pentecost gathering next June.  CTA is one of the member organizations of the Council, which also includes other Catholic reform organizations.

American Catholic Council is a movement bringing together a network of individuals, organizations, and communities to consider the state and future of our Church. We believe our Church is at a turning point in its history. We recall the promise of the Second Vatican Council for a renaissance of the roles and responsibilities of all the Baptized through a radically inclusive and engaged relationship between the Church and the World.  We respond to the Spirit of Vatican II by summoning the Baptized together to demonstrate our re-commitment. We seek personal conversion to renew our Church to conform to the authentic Gospel message, the teachings of our Church, and our lived context in the United States. Our reading of the “signs of the times”, as we experience them in the US, our plan and our agenda are set out in our Declaration.  We educate; we listen; we facilitate discussions and encounters; and, we build toward an American Catholic Council  that will convene in Detroit over Pentecost weekend in June of 2011.  At this Council we hope to proclaim our belief in the Rights and Responsibilities of US Catholics.

June 10, 2011.  Mark the date.

Minnesota Progressive Catholics

Catholic Coalition for Church Reform

Australian born Michael Bayly is a leading spokesman for the local (Minnesota) gay Christian community.  He serves as the executive coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), the editor of The Progressive Catholic Voice, and co-chair of the Minnesota-based Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR).  Earlier this year when an international group of progressive Catholic bloggers decided to collaborate on a new blog called Open Tabernacle, a pair of Minnesotans, Michael and I, were invited to participate.

From the CCCR website:

We are the Church. In our understanding of Church, all the baptized are one big community of smaller communities, we are all equal, we all participate in different ministries (lay, clergy, bishop), we communicate with one another, and we share a vision and a self-critique. The five words we have been using to summarize this model of Church are community, equality, participation, dialogue, and prophecy. It is a model arising out of Vatican II and seems to us most in line with the Gospel message. It has been promulgated by the Asian bishops and it also fits well with the positive values of our U.S. culture.

Dignity Twin Cities

Formed in 1969, the same year that the gay rights movement was born in the Stonewall riots of Greenwich Village, Dignity USA continues as the leading LGBT advocacy group within American Roman Catholicism.  Here is their vision statement:

DignityUSA envisions and works for a time when Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Catholics are affirmed and experience dignity through the integration of their spirituality with their sexuality, and as beloved persons of God participate fully in all aspects of life within the Church and Society.

A local chapter, Dignity Twin Cities, was formed in 1974.  Initially accepted by the local Catholic hierarchy, the organization was eventually booted out of Catholic property and now holds its liturgies and meetings at Prospect Park United Methodist Church.  The Rainbow Sash movement is associated with Dignity.  The current president of Dignity Twin Cities is Brian McNeill.

Womenpriests

The Roman Catholic Womenpriest movement is small but energized, and I have blogged previously about the women who challenge the patriarchal Catholic hierarchy at the cost of excommunication (here and here). 

Roman Catholic Womenpriests reject the penalty of excommunication issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on May 29, 2008 stating that the women priests and the bishops who ordain them would be excommunicated latae sententiae.” Roman Catholic Womenpriests are loyal members of the church who stand in the prophetic tradition of holy obedience to the Spirit’s call to change an unjust law that discriminates against women. Our movement is receiving enthusiastic responses on the local, national and international level.  We will continue to serve our beloved church in a renewed priestly ministry that welcomes all to celebrate the sacraments in inclusive, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered communities wherever we are called.

Bishop Regina Nicolosi Bishop Regina Nicolosi of Red Wing, Minnesota is a leader of the national Womenpriest movement.

Regina Nicolosi, MA, was born in a small town on the Rhine River. She was a teacher in Germany. 1969 she came to the USA to marry the love of her life, Charles, a radiologist and deacon. Together they raised four children, one of them from Colombia and one from Korea. Regina participated fully in Charles’ preparation to the diaconate. She earned her Masters Degree in Pastoral Studies. Regina has worked as a housing manager for seniors, as a chaplain in a correctional facility for boys, in a drug and alcohol recovery unit and in a nursing home. She is retired now. She helps prepare women for ordination and celebrates Eucharist with Dignity and other small faith-communities.

On Thursday, June 24th, I met Michael, Brian, Bishop Regina and other leaders of the progressive Catholic movement in Minnesota at a gay pride mass held in south Minneapolis. Following the liturgy, I was honored to be the guest speaker at this gathering of committed, Catholic, Christians.  Michael’s personal blog reports on the events of the evening in his post entitled LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being “Wonderfully Made”.  Click on the link to Michael’s blog for many pictures and Michael’s excellent reporting of this event.gay pride mass foursome

From left to right: Art Stroebl (event coordinator), Obie Holmen, Brian McNeill, Michael Bayly.

Cross posted at Spirit of a Liberal blog.

Of human bondage

What motivates us as human beings?  Why do we do what we do?

I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 

Of human bondageThese words of Paul the apostle from the 7th chapter of his letter to the Romans serve as the epigraph to my novel and the source of the title, A Wretched Man, a novel of Paul the apostle.  As these verses from Paul suggest, we have long wrestled with the problem of the human will.  The wonderings of philosophers such as Schopenhauer & Nietzsche; psychoanalysts such as Freud & Jung; and literary figures such as Somerset Maugham & Thomas Mann suggest it’s complicated and self-awareness is difficult.

What about homophobia?  What is the source of this phenomenon?  Let’s start with a definition–this one is Merriam-Webster’s online version:

irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals

and Wikipedia’s description:

Homophobia is a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards homosexuality and people identified or perceived as being homosexual. Definitions refer variably to antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, and irrational fear. Homophobia is observable in critical and hostile behavior such as discrimination and violence on the basis of a perceived non-heterosexual orientation. In a 1998 address, author, activist, and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King stated that “Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood.”

Let’s take it a step further; what is “internalized homophobia”?  Here’s the opening paragraph from a UC-Davis Psychology Department study:

Among lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, internalized sexual stigma (also called internalized homophobia) refers to the personal acceptance and endorsement of sexual stigma as part of the individual’s value system and self-concept. It is the counterpart to sexual prejudice among heterosexuals.

In other words, it is gay folks accepting negative societal, cultural, or religious stigma and applying such negative values toward oneself.  Self-condemnation.  Self-doubt and low self esteem en extremis.  It doesn’t take deep psychological insight to recognize that internalized homophobia is not healthy.  High incidence of suicide.  Drug and alcohol abuse.  Inability to have meaningful relationships. 

And sometimes, the internalized homophobia results in outrageous behavior toward other gays.  An extreme example is Andrew Cunanan, the murderer of Gianni Versace; political examples include US Senator Larry Craig & California State Senator Ray Ashburn; and religious examples include Ted Haggard and now Minnesota pastor and outspoken opponent of the ELCA gay friendly policies, Pastor Tom Brock of Hope Lutheran Church of Minneapolis (Hope Church is not ELCA but AFLC—Association of Free Lutheran Churches–a small and conservative Lutheran denomination). 

The “outing” of Pastor Brock was a journalistic abomination for which there is no excuse, and the offending magazine has received appropriate condemnation.  Yet, the exposure of Pastor Brock raises the question of other outspoken anti-gay religious leaders.  Let me be perfectly clear, I make no suggestion that this is the sole or even the primary motivation for those religious leaders in various denominations that oppose gay inclusive policies.  Yet, one wonders whether Pastor Brock is merely an isolated and atypical example or merely the tip of the iceberg.  What is it about human sexuality that makes some squirm?  How often does sexual angst undergird homophobia?

Whatever the motivation, religious leaders who bash gay folks over the head with their Bibles need to seriously question themselves—are they really offering a solution to gay suicide, gay drug and alcohol abuse, and gay casual relationships or are they part of the problem?  Are they advancing the kingdom of God or stalling it?  Are they truly seeking God’s will or merely proof texting the Bible to justify their own biases, prejudices and even their own homophobia? 

Don’t, please don’t, respond with the horrific notion that you hate the sin but love the sinner, a self-justifying excuse for murky motivations behind hurtful behavior.

Cross posted at Spirit of a Liberal.

Now it’s the Presbyterian’s turn

The Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) is commonly labeled “mainline Protestant”.  According to Wikipedia, the attribution “mainline Protestant” suggests the following:

Mainline or mainline Protestant (also sometimes called mainstream) denominations are those that comprised the vast majority of American Christianity from the colonial era until the early 1900s. Most were brought to America by their respective historic immigrant groups. Today, most are rooted in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States.

As a group they have maintained theologies that stress social justice concerns together with personal salvation and evangelism. They have been credited with leading the fight for social causes such as racial justice and civil rights, equality for women, rights for the disabled and other key issues. Many of the issues that such groups have advocated for have been embraced by American law and society, but at the same time mainline denominations have been somewhat marginalized. In addition, mainline churches and laity founded most of the leading educational institutes in the US.

In typical usage, the term mainline is contrasted with evangelical. Mainline churches tend to be more liberal in terms of theology and political issues. This places them to the ideological left of the evangelical and fundamentalist churches.

With approximately 2.4 million members, the PCUSA is the third largest of the mainline Protestant denominations behind the United Methodists (UMC–8 million) and the ELCA (4.4 million) and just ahead of the Episcopal Church (2.1 million).  Many of these denominations hold formal agreements with each other that mutually recognize clergy and sacramental practice.  For instance, the ELCA has full communion agreements with six other denominations, including the UMC, PCUSA and Episcopal Churches.

After wrestling with the issue of women’s ordination a generation or two ago, that issue is now settled and females comprise a significant percentage of the clergy within these mainline Protestant denominations.  Presently, LGBT issues roil these denominations.  The United Church of Christ (UCC) has the longest record of allowing gay clergy, and LGBT issues seem less contentious for that 1.1 million member denomination.  The Episcopal Church now has two LGBT bishops and adopted policies a year ago that succinctly offer “all the sacraments for all the baptized”.  But, the Episcopalians’ relationship with the worldwide Anglican communion has been strained and a conservative, dissident group of American Episcopalians has splintered away.  Also last summer, the ELCA changed its policy and now recognizes and affirms committed gay relationships and allows partnered gay clergy, but not without defecting individual and congregational membership.

PCUSA assembly logo All of this is background to the PCUSA weeklong 219th Annual Assembly that convenes in Minneapolis on July 3rd.  Coincidentally, the venue is the same Convention Center that was the location of last year’s momentous ELCA church wide assembly (CWA09).  I was present last summer as a volunteer for Goodsoil, a coalition of LGBT advocacy groups, and regular followers of this blog know that I have posted extensively about that experience.  The parallel LGBT advocacy organization within the PCUSA is “More Light Presbyterians (MLP)”, and they will advocate for repeal of provision G-6.0106b within the PCUSA Book of Order.

Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.

At the 2006 assembly, the delegates voted by a 57% majority that this provision was “non-essential” but without repealing it, which would have required ratification by the various presbyteries (regional bodies) of the PCUSA.  Detractors decried this “end run” around the PCUSA constitution.  Indeed, at the next assembly in 2008, the provision was amended by the delegates, but the amendment was subsequently derailed by the Presbyteries that failed to ratify the assembly action.

In addition to regular business of the assembly, including the election of a new moderator, the issue will certainly arise next month in Minneapolis.  I intend to blog extensively on this issue in the coming weeks so stay tuned.  As a non-Presbyterian, I also confess to partial knowledge of the details, and I welcome any Presbyterian comment or correction.

Cross posted at Spirit of a Liberal blog.

Today is the day: ELCA rosters gay clergy

From the moment they called the question and the resolution passed by a 55-45% majority at last August’s ELCA churchwide assembly, Lutherans knew that partnered gay clergy would soon become rostered on the list of ELCA ordained clergy.

Today is the day.

A visible sign of the wondrous changes in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the reinstatement of Pastor Bradley Schmeling and Pastor Darin Easler to the roster of ministers of the ELCA. Both had been removed from that roster for being in a committed, same-gender relationship.

The leading Minnesota newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, reported on the local angle, noting that Darin Easler had earlier served in the SE Mn synod (now my home) and also mentioned Anita Hill whose own celebrated case in St Paul was an important waypoint on the journey toward full inclusion.

Because they both had been rostered before, the process was different than for them than, say, the Rev. Anita Hill, who has been pastoring St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul since 2001 without being on the ELCA roster. She said that she’s going to apply for rostering but is waiting so that the distinction of being first goes to a California minister who was the first lesbian to challenge the old ELCA policy.

And, speaking of the 20 year old California extraordinary ordinations of gay and lesbian pastors, here is a video that retells and celebrates the story of Jeff Johnson, Phyllis Zillhart, and Ruth Frost.  The video was released on the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) blog.  Susan Hogan at Pretty Good Lutheran’s blog has more background information, and I also cite my own past post.

Cross posted at Spirit of a Liberal blog.

The UCC and gay ordination: thirty-eight years and counting

I have been and will continue to be a cheerleader for my beloved ELCA, and I will defend with pride her courageous decision last summer to include our LGBT brothers and sisters in ordained ministry and to offer blessing of their relationships.  I have also blogged extensively about the parallel Episcopal efforts to include “all the baptized in all the sacraments.”  But, there is one denomination that we sometimes overlook and take for granted; the United Church of Christ (UCC) was the original pioneer in recognizing gay clergy over a generation ago.  I have friends in my local UCC congregation, and their attitude towards the new ELCA policy is “what took you so long.”

With a hat tip to the blog Straight not Narrow—Presenting Jesus beyond the Walls, I offer the following YouTube video that remembers the ordination of William (Bill) R. Johnson, the first openly gay person to be ordained to the Christian ministry … on June 25, 1972. The whole movie takes about twenty minutes and is broken into two parts for YouTube.  They’re worth the time.

Cross posted at Spirit of a Liberal.

Roman Catholic female ordination

Call to Action logo Call to Action is the largest group of progressive Catholics with roots in the liberalizing reforms of Vatican II, originally sanctioned by the American Council of Bishops, but which became an outsider organization as conservative retrenchment set in during the papacy of John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II repeatedly dashed hopes for any internal liberalizing during his lifetime, and he prepared for the future by appointing as bishops only men who upheld his views on contraception and the ordination of women. Meanwhile, there were crackdowns on theologians like [Hans] Kung and an insistence from Rome that diversity of opinion was not to be tolerated.

The organization is stronger than ever and continues to a thorn in the flesh of the patriarchal and hierarchal Vatican:

We appeal to the institutional church to reform and renew its structures. We also appeal to the people of God to witness to the Spirit who lives within us and to seek ways to serve the vision of God in human society.

We call upon church officials to incorporate women at all levels of ministry and decision-making.

We call upon the church to discard the medieval discipline of mandatory priestly celibacy and to open the priesthood to women and married men…so that the Eucharist may continue to be the center of the spiritual life of all Catholics.

We call for extensive consultation with the Catholic people in developing church teaching on human sexuality.

We claim our responsibility as committed laity, religious and clergy to participate in the selection of our local bishops, a time-honored tradition in the church.

We call for open dialogue, academic freedom, and due process.

We call upon the church to become a model of financial openness on all levels, including the Vatican.

We call for a fundamental change so that young people will see and hear God living in and through the church as a participatory community of believers who practice what they preach.

Another group of progressive Catholics has moved beyond advocacy to open defiance of the Vatican by ordaining women despite excommunication.  Called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, the organization now has five female bishops who are actively ordaining women to the priesthood around the US. 

The Sarasota Florida Herald Tribune offered a lengthy article on Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan and her ordination of two women as priests and one as a deacon over the weekend.

A former nun who the Vatican says has been excommunicated will ordain two women priests and one deacon in Sarasota today, part of a growing and controversial movement claiming to be an offshoot of the Catholic church.

The ordinations will be the first in Florida by the group known as Roman Catholic Womenpriests, which preaches equality for women by allowing them into the priesthood and plays down allegiance to the pope.

Bishop Bridget (center) and two new womenpriests The official Catholic church calls the movement and the ordinations illegitimate, and the local diocese sent letters to parishes saying any Catholics who support the ordination of women by attending today’s ceremony will be automatically excommunicated — a banishment from participating in church sacraments such as baptism and communion until forgiveness is given by a priest.

“Good!” said Bridget Mary Meehan, the former nun who is performing today’s ordinations and is one of five bishops in the national movement. “They’re upping the ante. People will have to be courageous to support us and that is what this is about. Like our sister Rosa Parks, we refuse to sit on the back of the bus any longer.”

A similar story comes from the Sacramento Bee newspaper in California.

To parishioners in her small Sacramento congregation, Elizabeth English is their Catholic priest: She presides over their Sunday Mass, leads them during Communion and baptizes their babies.

To the Roman Catholic Church, English symbolizes a topic that church leaders consider closed: the ordination of women priests.

English left the Roman Catholic Church five years ago to pursue her calling to the priesthood. She is now a priest in the Independent Catholic Church, a group not recognized by the Vatican. She is the only female Catholic priest in the Sacramento region.

“I had to leave the church; there was no place for me,” she said. “I wish there was.”

Another of the five Womenpriest bishops, Andrea M. Johnson, will appear tomorrow at the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University.  Bishop Johnson will speak and participate in a blue ribbon panel discussion about female ordination.  This information comes from blogger Wild Hair whose self description is “Roman Catholic Priest, still in reasonably good standing; aka: eminence, the cardinal archbishop of HGN.”

Finally, Bishop Bridget mentioned earlier has her own blog with lots of info and links about the Womenpriest movement.  Check it out.

This article is cross posted at Spirit of a Liberal.

Prop 8 trial reveals abuses of reparative therapy

If you haven’t heard, a civil trial is underway in California contesting the constitutionality of Prop 8.  If you don’t know about Prop 8, it was a California referendum that passed by a slight majority in the 2008 election, and its effect was to preclude same gender marriage in California.

This is a much ballyhooed trial, not merely for its subject but also for its participants.  The two main attorneys that are pursuing the case are the same who opposed each other in Gore v Bush, the 2000 presidential election Florida recount case, who now join in common cause to have Prop 8 overturned as unconstitutional.   One of these is well known Republican and conservative attorney Theodore Olson, formerly of the Bush and Reagan administrations.

Attorney Olson explains his views in a Newsweek article, entitled The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage.

My involvement in this case has generated a certain degree of consternation among conservatives. How could a politically active, lifelong Republican, a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, challenge the “traditional” definition of marriage and press for an “activist” interpretation of the Constitution to create another “new” constitutional right?

My answer to this seeming conundrum rests on a lifetime of exposure to persons of different backgrounds, histories, viewpoints, and intrinsic characteristics, and on my rejection of what I see as superficially appealing but ultimately false perceptions about our Constitution and its protection of equality and fundamental rights.

Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one’s own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.

Pastor Candice Chellew-Hodge is “the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as associate pastor at Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, S.C.”  A religious progressive, her blog post today carries the subtitle, “testimony shows the ugly side of religion”.  The subject is the discredited and abusive practice of reparative therapy—the misguided attempt to turn gay persons straight.  (See my prior blog post about reparative therapy here.)

The testimony, as reported by Pastor Chellew-Hodge, is compelling and heart wrenching.

I’m gay. I’m short and half Hispanic those things aren’t going to change.”

Those are the words Ryan Kendall uttered in a federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday as the trial over whether or not to overturn Proposition 8 that stripped gays and lesbians of their right to marry in California, got into its second week.

Kendall took the stand to recount his harsh treatment in an “ex-gay ministry.” His deeply religious parents forced him into so-called “reparative therapy” after finding a note that Kendall had written to himself confessing his sexual orientation at the age of 13. Kendall said his parents “flipped out, (they were) very upset, yelling. I don’t remember a lot of what they said, but it was pretty scary the level of their reaction. I remember my mother telling me I was going to burn in hell.”

Read the rest of the blog post and more testimony here.

Gun sights for Jesus

Howard Friedman Howard Friedman is Professor of Law Emeritus at Toledo University, and he publishes a blog about the intersection of law and religion.  His blog is named Religion Clause, and the blog’s byline is the first amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… –US Const., Amend. 1”

His latest post contains a troubling investigative report from ABC News about a defense contractor that has a contract for supplying 800,000 high powered rifle sights to the US Marine Corps and more for the army.  The problem is that each rifle sight contains a Biblical reference, a coded citation to either 2nd Corinthians 4:6 or John 8:12 affixed to the end of each gun sight’s serial number.

For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (2 Co 4:6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Jn 8:12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

It is unclear why the gun sight manufacturer chose these particular verses.

An overt Biblical reference included on any government ordered product is undoubtedly a violation of the establishment clause.  Professor Friedman has a Sgt Joe Friday (Dragnet) style of writing (“Just the facts, ma’am”); thus, one is left to infer his legal opinion about the constitutionality of the practice from the mere fact that he published the post.

Jesus with a gun (borrowed from Seven Whole Days) Blogger Scott Gunn at Seven Whole Days is less subtle, and he writes less from a legal/constitutional point of view (although he agrees the practice is unconstitutional) than from his perspective as an Episcopal priest.  Apparently, the company spokesman dismissed critics of the practice as “uppity ‘non-Christians’”.  Gunn responds, “Well, this priest in Christ’s Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is outraged.”

Where to begin? Let’s start with practical matters. It will (rightly) inflame Muslims to learn that US military forces are fighting a war with equipment that contains references  to the Bible … How can we have any credibility when we say we are not fighting a new crusade, while our forces use equipment that is marked with verses about following Jesus?

Continuing to speak as a priest, I am further outraged by the perversion of the faith to which I devote my life. Jesus surely wants us to share the Good News with the whole world, but not in the side of deadly weapons. More to the point, killing in Christ’s name violates every teaching of the Gospels. I might concede that war is a necessary evil, though I have strong pacifist leanings, but we can never imagine that we have God’s approval to fight wars. Every war, every weapon, and every death in battle represents a tragic sin. To mock Jesus Christ by stamping “the light of Christ” on a rifle scope is to engage in deadly blasphemy.

To lawyer Friedman, I say “Counselor, we join in your arguments.  Your comments are incorporated herein by reference.”  To Pastor Gunn, I say, “amen, brother.”

Cross posted at Spirit of a Liberal Blog

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