After several years of study, the Episcopal Church has released a draft of what same-sex marriage rites would look like. An important caveat: these are just drafts, and it will likely be years before any final liturgy is approved for official use across the church.
Episcopalians in states that allow same-sex civil marriage (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland and others) already have the option to bless same-sex marriages but there is no formal churchwide liturgy. Same-sex commitment ceremonies are permitted elsewhere in the church at the discretion of the local bishop.
From the church’s Office of Public Affairs:
The report’s theological reflection notes that the SCLM [Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music] has reviewed more than 30 years of General Convention’s deliberation on same-gender couples, especially [a] resolution approved in 2000, that identified characteristics the Church expects of couples living in marriage and other lifelong committed relationships: “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”
“Such covenantal relationships can reflect God‘s own gracious covenant with us in Christ, manifest the fruits of the Spirit in holiness of life, and model for the whole community the love of neighbor in the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation,” the report states.– Religion News Service
This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for God’s extravagant love for all of God’s creation…no exceptions, no one outside of God’s embrace. This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for God’s sustaining grace in and through difficult times, loss of those we love, illness, economic hardships and war. This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for the peace that passes all understanding that comes from trusting that God’s redemptive love and justice is at work in our own lives, in the lives of others, in our Church and in the world.
The affair of the Soho Masses has rumbled on for years now; and it has become one of the defining issues of the Catholic Church in England at the beginning of the new Millennium. That sounds a little pompous, maybe: but I predict nevertheless what, at my age, I will not live to see – that when the history of the English Church in this dire period for its fortunes is written, this subject will merit more than a passing footnote.The question the affair poses is very simple: are those set in authority over us, the bishops, at this juncture in our history prepared to defend the teaching of the Church as though it were indeed, as Catholics have always believed, part of a body of faith given by God and not constructed by men?
- “Speaking the Truth” on Catholic LGBT Inclusion (Queering the Church)
- Queer Inclusion in Church: Evangelicals Ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” (Queering the Church)
- “Equally Blessed”: Statement on US Bishops’ Elections.(Queering the Church)
- Fr Owen O’Sullivan on Gay Inclusion: Why Can’t They Just Keep Quiet About It? (Queering the Church)
- LGBT Inclusion in Church: A Study in Contrasts (Open Tabernacle)
- Nov 1st: All (Gay) Saints (Queering the Church)
- Texas Pastor: Christians Have a Moral Obligation To Stop Anti-Gay Bullying (gayrights.change.org)
- GLAAD’s Religious News Round-up: Highly Recommended (Queering the Church)
- The End Is Not In Sight – But the Journey Has Begun. (Queering the Church)
- Same-Sex Church Weddings Inch Closer in Finland (Queering the Church)
- A Kairos Moment for LGBT Catholics?
Here is the eighth (and final) extract:
Are homosexuals showing church and society a way forward?
Forty years ago, in Ireland as in other countries, homosexuality was a subject that ‘decent people’ didn’t talk about. But homosexuals found the honesty and courage to come out, to declare themselves, and to share their thoughts and feelings, often in the face of derision, hatred, violence or the threat of hell. They began to organize, to challenge the system, and to go political. They have brought about a 180 degree turn in public attitudes, exemplified by the Civil Partnerships Bill now going through the Oireachtas (legislature), something unimaginable forty years ago. Would that the church had so re-invented itself in the same forty years! Maybe the missing ingredients were the same: honesty, courage, openness, dialogue, challenging the status quo.
One finds a similar process at work among the ‘Anonymouses’ – alcoholics, gamblers, narcotics- and sex-addicts. They are at the bottom of the heap. By coming out, facing the truth, revealing their feelings, supporting and challenging each other, they have built communities which reflect what the church is meant to be – but often isn’t. Leadership is from the bottom up, the despised and rejected at the bottom of the hierarchical pyramid showing the way to the wise and learned at the top.
And recently we have seen how it was the suffering of the most helpless in society – children – which eventually led to the exposure of much of what was rotten in the church.
Will homosexuals help us to re-discover new/old ways of doing theology and developing pastoral practice, where human experience is the starting point? That has happened already with other teachings that didn’t tally with human experience or meet human needs. Will they help us to read scripture with one eye on the page and the other on life? They are equally parts of one process. Perhaps they will show us that human experience is as valuable as scripture, as Saint Ignatius Loyola, for one, affirmed. ‘The word became flesh…’ (John 1.14) – God still speaks.
Perhaps, too, homosexuals are showing men a way forward out of self-imposed isolation, out of individualism built on machismo, and a way of dealing with personal issues such as men’s identity, men’s spirituality, addictions, domestic violence against men, male suicide, how abortion affects men, bereavement, paternity and parenting, access to and custody of children in a separation, and care of one’s health. The issues are different, but the qualities needed to face them are those that homosexuals developed in recent times.
Some of what the Scriptures say.
A few quotations: –
‘God saw all that he had made and indeed it was very good.’ (Genesis 1.31)
‘God does not see as people see; people look at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ (1 Samuel 16.7)
‘Anyone who is not against us is for us’. (Mark 9.38-40; Luke 9.49-50)
‘Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?’ (Luke 12.57)
‘Whoever comes to me, I shall not turn away’. (John 6.37)
‘God has no favourites.’ (Romans 2.11)
‘We belong to each other.’ (Romans 12.5)
‘Each must be left free to hold his own opinion.’ (Romans 14.5)
‘You should never pass judgment on another or treat them with contempt.’ (Romans 14.10)
‘Do not let what is good to you be spoken of as evil.’ (Romans 14.16)
‘Your bodies are members making up the body of Christ.’ (1 Corinthians 6.15)
‘By the grace of God, I am what I am.’ (1 Corinthians 15.10. See also 12.18-21, 26)
‘Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God.’ (2 Corinthians 6.19)
‘You are, all of you, children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptized in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3.26-28)
‘We are what God made us’. (Ephesians 2.10)
‘Everything God has created is good.’ (1 Timothy 4.4)
The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of ‘the whole church in which everyone is a “first-born” and a citizen of heaven.’ (12.23)
Or read 1 John 4.7-21.
For those who don’t like the above, the great consolation is that it’s all God’s fault. Why? For creating in diversity instead of uniformity, as we see all around us in – guess where? – nature, for making some people different from others. Or did God make a mistake?
The full series, “A Theology of Gay Inclusion”:
- (Pt 1), Is Homosexuality Unnatural?
- (Pt 2), Why Can’t They Just Keep Quiet About It?
- (Pt 3), Is It Wrong to Act Gay?
- (Pt 4), “Homosexuality is fundamentally disordered”
- (Pt 5), “What’s wrong with saying ‘Do your best’ ?“
- (Pt 6), “Our sexual relationships”
- (Pt 7), “In the end we will be judged on how we have loved.”
- (Pt 8), Are homosexuals showing church and society a way forward? “
Here is the seventh extract:
‘In the end we will be judged on how we have loved.’
If God is love, and if sex is loving, then sex between two people of different or the same gender can only be looked upon lovingly by God. The real sin would be to live without ever having had this contact with another human being.
Sacraments are places where God’s story and the human story meet. Not only do we need to tell the human story, but we need to tell it first; that was Jesus’ way of doing things and of teaching. The human story of some homosexuals is that awakening to their sexuality has meant taking responsibility for themselves and growing up. They say they have grown into better people for having taken the risk of giving and receiving love. A gay man said that, in experiencing being despised and rejected for being gay, he found that, ‘The ultimate sign of a person’s love is the figure of Jesus on the cross. The wound of homosexuality is not unrelated to Christ’s presence in the Passion. Through suffering, rejection and pain, people grow, change, and are transformed.’ Another said simply, ‘God wants us to be the people he created us to be.’ This echoes the saying of Saint Clement of Alexandria that, ‘We ought not to be ashamed of what God was not ashamed to create.’ Where is the Good News for homosexuals? Is it in the Wisdom of Solomon, ‘You [God] love all things that exist, and detest none of the things you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, O Lord, you who love the living. For your immortal spirit is in all things.’ (Wisdom 11.24-12.1, NRSV)
Contrary to popular imagination, which usually places evangelicals strictly within the conservative Christian right-wing, this rousing call to action came from Rev. Jean Southard at a dinner for LGBT advocates during the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly.
In the midst of debates within both the Presbyterian Church and the nation, Rev. Southard’s point was that LGBT-rights advocates in the church should shout from the rafters that their actions are evangelical—in the deepest historical sense of the word—and in so doing, remind evangelicals of Christianity’s fundamental tenet of inclusion.
Though it has taken on a narrow meaning in American politics today, “evangelical” is actually an ancient Christian term whose roots extend to the earliest days after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. “Evangelical,” or “evangelion” in the original Greek, literally translates as “Good News.” From the women running to tell the others of the empty tomb (Luke 24:1-12), to Paul’s mission to the Gentiles (Acts 15), to John writing his Gospel to make sure the Good News would be there for future generations like us, “evangelical” has always meant sharing Jesus’ Good News with all those who wish to be part of the Church.
As Jesus said, “When I am lifted up, I shall draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). There is no “but” in Jesus’ “all.” And so it is incumbent upon us, as a Church, to extend our full welcome and blessing to all the faithful, including those who are LGBT.Yet LGBT people are the ones whom many in the Church today judge as beyond the reach of Jesus’ embrace—just as the Galatians and Corinthians were considered beyond God’s love in Paul’s time.
For those who claim the mantle of the evangelical tradition, it is important to remember what it means that God’s love is available to all of us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It means that LGBT Christians have the same place at Christ’s table as anyone else.
The chorus of the praise song, “We Are One in the Spirit,” echoes Paul (Galatians 5:22) when it repeats the refrain, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” It is in this Spirit that we can “out-evangelize the evangelicals.”
And so, when LGBT people freely embrace and live a Christian life, the Church must recognize such deep faithfulness and open our arms to them as well. At the heart of Jesus’ Good News is this: there is no “but” in “all.”
The difficulty with most research results for demographic sub-samples, such as “women”, or “Latinos” , 0r “over 50’s” is that without deeper statistical analysis, it is never quite clear whether the differences seen between groups are specific to those groups, or just the result of hidden demographics distorting the groups being examined.
some are taking the remarkable step, given their dependent position, of directly contradicting the bishops’ message.
“Marriage cultivates concern for one another; it offers lifelong hospitality; it enacts love; and it exposes our faults in order to heal them. It is the marital virtues that the Church needs, not only with respect to the Bridegroom [Christ] but just now, with respect to one another.” The liberal group defined orientation in terms not of gender, but of morality: “A sexually oriented person is someone who develops and is morally improved through a relationship with someone of the apposite sex, typically but not necessarily the opposite sex. Those called to same-sex relationships are those that need them for their own sanctification . . . because neither opposite-sex relationships nor celibacy could get deeply enough into their hearts to promote lifelong commitment and growth.” It said that same-sex couples should not be denied the moral worth of each putting their body “on the line” for the other “until death us do part”; that was an accountability “far beyond what counselled celibacy can provide”. Nor should they be denied the “delight” they had in each other; for that was necessary for action: Eros did not turn into charity through self-control, but through self abandonment, and the self-dispossession that led to self-donation. “It is the daily version of finding one’s life by losing it.”
Welcome to your world
As gay Catholics, we have often found ourselves double outsiders. As a sexual minority in a world where heterosexuality is routinely taken for granted, and even suffered ridicule, discrimination, violence or worse, we have often felt excluded, left out – or even invisible. Typically, we have felt even more rejected in the churches than in the secular world, with widespread condemnation of the ‘sin’ of homosexuality.
This hostility from the religious establishment has led to a counter-reaction from many in the LGBT community, who see religion as the architect and driving force behind our ‘oppression’, and consequently refuse to have any truck with organised religion. The result for gay Catholics is too often, exclusion by both camps. I have often heard the observation from my gay Catholic friends, that it can be as difficult to be out as Catholic in the gay community, as it is to be out as gay in the world at large.
However, in the secular world at least, things have changed. Ever since Stonewall, may of us have discovered the power of coming out publicly. At a personal level, affirming, not hiding, our identities has been personally liberating for our mental and even physical health; at a public level, the increasing visibility of persons of diverging sexual identities has played a big part in breaking down stereotypes, prejudice, and increasingly, discrimination. For young (and not so young) people who are beginning for the first time to face the idea that they do not fit inside the sexual roles their social conditioning has led them to expect, this increased visibility of public role models also makes it easier for own coming out, than it was for earlier generations.
This increased visibility has not yet significantly reached our parishes, cloisters, or ecclesiastical parishes, partly because so many of those who are most comfortable identifying as gay, refuse to identify as churchgoers. But in parallel with the secular world, the more we are indeed out in the church, the easier it will be for us, and for those who follow.
So, to all you who are gay Catholics or lapsed Catholics, a plea and invitation: come in and come out. If you have lapsed, come back in to the Church, and help to make a difference. If you remain a regular churchgoer, come in deeper – take on more active ministry. Let there be no doubt of your credentials as Catholic. Then, cautiously and gradually, come out as gay. If you can not trust your parish to be accepting, find one which will (welcoming communities do exist. This site will help you to find one.) Or, if you prefer, seek out a special Mass for an LGBT congregation. These too exist in many bigger cities, even if not on every Sunday. For most people, coming out in the secular world was not easy. You probably needed help and support from LGBT friends, and may have deliberately sought out explicitly gay public venues as much for affirmation as for the objective services offered (I know I did. Why else pay higher prices for a pint in Soho than in your neighbourhood local?)
Coming out in the church will be more difficult, so you will need even more support. I hope that this site will help you to find a suitable support network for face to face contact and discussion. But the virtual society of the blogosphere can also represent support of a kind – and that, we definitely aim to provide.
- Advent: Prepare Ye A Way For Inclusion (Queering the Church)
- “Catholics For Equality” on Gay Bullycide (Queering the Church)
- Give Thanks For This Kairos Moment of LGBT Inclusion