Monday, April 30, 2007

Italian Prelate Says He Won't Be Intimidated

GENOA, Italy, APRIL 30, 2007 ( Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa said he won't be intimidated after receiving another death threat, seemingly in response to his defense of the family founded on marriage.
The president of the Italian bishops' conference found an envelope in his residence on Friday, containing a bullet and a photo of himself with a swastika drawn on it, the Genoan daily newspaper Il Corriere Mercantile reported.
Armed bodyguards have accompanied the 64-year-old archbishop since the beginning of April, when threatening graffiti were found on the cathedral door and along the streets of Genoa.

The threats came following Archbishop Bagnasco's public declarations in defense of the traditional family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, specifically the Italian bishops' "Note Regarding the Family Founded on Marriage and Legislative Initiatives Concerning Civil Unions."

In the note, the prelates reminded Catholic politicians and lawmakers of their duty not to vote for legislation in favor of civil unions or laws that would favor the legal recognition of homosexual couples.

Stronger and clearer
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome, and the previous president of the Italian episcopal conference, asserted that the Catholic Church in Italy will not be intimidated.

His words were published today in the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.

"Faced with these attempts at intimidation, we want everyone to know that we will speak, if necessary, in a stronger and clearer way," said the cardinal.
Archbishop Bagnasco has spoken several times about the implicit dangers in legislation adopted by the Italian government Feb. 8, which points to offering legal recognition of de facto unions between homosexual or heterosexual couples.

On March 26, at the beginning of the Italian bishops' permanent council meeting, Archbishop Bagnasco stressed that the prelates are firm in their decision to defend "the utter uniqueness of the family in order to help the family, educate it and value it for the good -- present and future -- of humanity."

He added that they will fight "so that families will not give in under the pressures of those lobbies that are able to negatively influence the legislative process."

Europarliament: Religious Leaders Homophobic

But Cardinal Defends Church, Citing Catechism

APRIL 30, 2007 ( Church officials criticized a European Parliament resolution that condemns "discriminatory comments" made by political and religious leaders against homosexuals. The resolution, which passed 325-124, with 150 abstentions, condemns the "discriminatory comments formulated by politicians and religious leaders about homosexuals, as fermenting hatred and violence -- even if they were later withdrawn -- and it asks that the hierarchies of the respective organizations condemn them as well."

The European Parliament did refuse to include the proposal of three Italians to publicly condemn Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco for his statements against homosexuals, which were falsely interpreted by the press and then later clarified.The approved resolution invites member states to propose laws "that overcome discriminations suffered by same sex couples" and "reminds all member states that the prohibition of the Gay Pride Parade and the lack of protection offered to its participants are against the principles of the European Convention of human rights."The resolution also proposes that an annual "International Day Against Homophobia" be held on May 17.

Time to settle
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice and Cardinal Peter Erdo and Monsignor Aldo Giordano, president and secretary-general of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, respectively, defended the Church against accusations that it doesn't respect homosexual persons. "There is no homophobia in the Catholic Church and it is time that all this ended," Cardinal Scola said on Thursday to the Italian bishops' television network, Sat 2000.

Referring to the European Parliament, he said: "There needs to be more respect for the orientation of our people. There is no need to tell lies." Paolo Bustaffa, director of the Italian bishops' SIR news agency, told Vatican Radio last Thursday: "It is clear that they are suspicious of the Church's thinking in regard to these situations, these people, for whom -- the Catechism of the Catholic Church says -- the Church has a great respect." "Respect for people, however, cannot nullify a problematic aspect," he added. "There must be understanding but in many cases there cannot be justification."

GLBTQ Agenda News
April 20, 2007

Sierra Pacific Synod passes memorial on policy changeFriday morning, April 20, 2007, the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA voted overwhelmingly to support the goodsoil memorial on policy change. The memorial directs the appropriate units of the church to eliminate the policy precluding partnered gay clergy and to shorten reinstatement procedures for those previously removed from the clergy roster. Since Sierra-Pacific is one of the earliest synod assemblies this season, its deadline for resolutions passed before the memorial on policy change was released by goodsoil. The goodsoil legislative strategy was delayed until receipt of the decision of the Hearing Committee in the disciplinary action against Pastor Bradley Schmeling. Since the deadline had passed, a motion to put the memorial on the floor of the Sierra-Pacific synod assembly for discussion required a 2/3 supermajority of the voting members present. The motion to consider the memorial passed easily.In previous years, primary support for goodsoil memorials came from Bay Area pastors and lay voting members. According to Steven Krefting, co-chair of the goodsoil Legislative team and himself a member of the Sierra Pacific Synod, this time, positive debate on the memorial came from all over the synod. Sierra Pacific covers most of Northern California including more rural areas. Moving stories were told by pastors and laity alike. Steve said the memorial appeared to pass by a margin of more than 2 to 1. Co-chair of LC/NA, Jeannine Janson who hails from San Francisco said, "Sierra Pacific is not always a slam dunk on these things, so this vote is particularly gratifying."LC/NA thanks members of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter, the synod's robust RIC community, and its many allied pastors for their efforts in organizing for this synod assembly. Prayers are requested for three additional synod assemblies happening this weekend, Arkansas Oklahoma, Western Iowa, and Southwest Minnesota.

Monday, April 09, 2007

You Shall Not Lie with a Male: Standards for Churchly Decision-Making on Homosexuality

Reprinted from Lutheran Forum Vol. 30, No. 1 February, 1996
All rights reserved.

Can love be sin? The whole tradition of Christian teaching answers yes; there is distorted, perverse love. Humans are created for love, as creatures of the God who is love, but this human destiny is perverted where it turns away from God. This is universal because of the fall, in that people love other things more than God. So Jesus says, "Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:3). Even when it is a matter of that love for parents which is the subject of the Fourth Commandment, love toward God must have priority. The will ofGod - or to put it in the terms of Jesus' proclamation, the lordship of God over our life - must be the pole star of our self-determination in the conduct of our loving.

What this means in the area of sexual relationships is made clear from Jesus' words about divorce. In his answer to the question of the Pharisees concerning the permissibility of divorce Jesus reaches back to the creation of human beings, in which he sees God's intention for his creation expressed: From the creation until now God has made humankind male and female. Therefore it is said that a man shall leave his father and mother to be united with his wife and the two shall become one flesh. Then follows Jesus' word that the inviolability of the community of husband and wife is the goal of God's creative will for humanity. The indissoluble marital community is therefore the purpose of the creation of humankind as sexual beings (Mark 10:2-9).

This word of Jesus forms the foundation and the criterion for all Christian reflection on the question of sexuality. It deals not just with marriage as a unique issue but more comprehensively with the designation of humans as sexual beings from their creation onward. According to the word of Jesus human sexuality as male and female is established on the indissoluble community of marriage. That is the standard for determining Christian teaching over the whole range of sexual relationships.

Jesus' view of things conforms to the whole and entire Jewish tradition, although in stressing the indissolubility of marriage Jesus exceeds the stipulation of Jewish Law, which entertained the possibility of divorce. (Deuteronomy 24:1)

It was the common Jewish conviction that human sexuality was established for marital community. Already in the Old Testament, judgment about departures from this norm of sexual relations is thus grounded, as much for unchastity and adultery as for homosexuality.

Biblical judgments about homosexual behavior are unequivocal in their more or less sharp rejection, and all biblical comments on this subject without exception agree. The Holiness Code in Leviticus states apodictically, "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." (Leviticus 18:22) The twentieth chapter of this book pronounces such behavior a crime worthy of death (Leviticus 20:13), every bit as much as adultery a few verses earlier (20:10). The Jews understood that in these questions they were to be distinguished from the surrounding peoples. Likewise the New Testament position on the matter of homosexuality agrees in contrast to the Hellenistic culture which took no offense at homosexual relations. In Romans Paul regards homosexual relations as a consequence of human turning away from God (Romans 1:2~, and in the first letter to the Corinthians homosexual activity is judged along with unchastity, adultery, idolatry, witchcraft, drunkenness, theft, and robbery to be one of those behaviors which exclude from the Kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:9ff.). Paul intends that Christians are made free from ensnarement in all such modes of behavior through Baptism (6:11).

There is not a single testimony in the New Testament that stands against this Pauline assertion to offer a favorable judgment on homosexual activity. In the entirety of the biblical witness, therefore and without exception, homosexual practice is determined to be a mode of behavior in which the turning away of humanity from God is blatantly expressed. This finding establishes very narrow boundaries for discretion for any church bound to the authority of Scripture. At the same time the biblical assertions on this theme depict the negative counterpart to the positive view of that sexual character of humanity is grounded in creation, such that it by no means has to do with mere marginal judgments that can be neglected without serious damage to the whole Christian message. The biblical claims about homosexuality will accordingly not admit of any relativizing, such that one might regard them as an expression of a cultural and historical situation that modern people have overcome. This is rather a matter which the biblical witnesses from the beginning understood in opposition to the dominant attitude of the surrounding world, precisely because of faith in the God of Israel as it regarded the destiny he bestowed on humanity in creation.

Today we hear recommendations for a change in the Church's judgment concerning homosexuality, a change which the biblical witnesses had been unable to consider but which has been achieved through modern anthropological awareness, namely, that homosexuality so-called is a "given" of the psychological and physiological nature of homosexual persons apart from any corresponding sexual behavior. One should therefore speak of a clear distinction between homosexual acts and a homophile orientation. In addition it is said that such orientation is restricted to a certain minority of people only in its intensity. As one factor among others in human sexuality it is much more widespread. It is in fact characteristicaIly human that sexual urges are not restricted to one limited range of relationships but pervade all human behavior in the full range of affections. Relations with persons of one's own sex fit this pattern. Moreover, since erotic motives play a role in all human relationships, the task for us is to integrate them into the entirety of a way of life. The fact of homophile inclinations need not lead automatically to homosexual acts. It can be integrated into a way of life in is subordinated to relations with the opposite sex and in which the theme of sexual activity need not become so much the center of human existence that it dominates all others. The accomplishment of marriage as an institution lies, as the sociologist Helmut Schelsky has rightly said, not least in that it restrains human sexuality within tasks and purposes that transcend it.

The fact of homosexual inclinations therefore need not be denied and also may not be condemned. The question is only how to deal with the human task of self determination in relationships. That is the real problem, and this is where the judgment that homosexual actions area deviation from the norm God has given humans for their sexual conduct has its place. In the judgment of the church this applies not only to homosexuality but also to every sexual activity between men and women that is not oriented toward marriage, above all to adultery. The Church must live with the reality that deviations from the norm in this area of life as in others are common enough, but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. The Church must approach the persons concerned with tolerance and understanding, but she must also call them to repentance. She cannot surrender the distinction between the norm and conduct that departs from it.

Here stands the boundary for any Christian Church which knows itself bound by Scripture. Those who would press the Church to change the norm of her teaching in this question must understand that they press the Church toward schism. For a Church which allows itself to be to be pushed to regard homosexual activity as no longer a departure from the biblical norm and to recognize homosexual partnerships as a form of personal relationship equivalent to marriage would no longer stand on the foundation of the Scripture but rather in opposition to its unanimous witness. A church that takes such a step has thereby ceased to be an evangelical church in the tradition of the Lutheran Reformation.

This article was first printed in the journal Zeitwende, January, 1994. The translation is by Leonard Klein, with the assistance of Christian D. von Dehsen.

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
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