Saturday, June 30, 2007

More reports about the Ann Holmes Redding

Just so folk know that people such as Shrimp who say this battle is not about sexuality, but the authority of Scripture, are RIGHT! AND THERE ARE FAR WORSE THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE IS MISUNDERSTOOD (heresy is one thing, but apostacy quite another). The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding of the Olympia Diocese, TEC, comes along and proves the point with amazing aplomb. This person and her bishop are unruffled. The diocese put her sermon for the Trinity Sunday on their web site.

This is the truly scary thing about revisionists is that they seem to be generally proud of themselves and want to share their work even when it is written poorly.

Here is the story if you haven't read it.

Here is an interesting blog post with great photos.

This is what we have ahead of us in the mainline--not just heresy but apostacy. And proud of it.

The ELCA leadership should make a statement distancing itself from TEC for the failure of their bishops to safeguard its flock from heresy and apostacy, but then they would have to do or say something about this.

Synod assembly season is finished – on now to Churchwide

June 27, 2007
Synod assembly season is finished – on now to Churchwide
FROM Emily Eastwood, Executive Director:
Dear Members of LC/NA and the RIC Community,
Now that the synod assembly season has concluded, time is of the essence as we move forward with our plans for Churchwide Assembly. With an unprecedented 23 synods representing 40% of the membership of the ELCA passing memorials to move the church toward full inclusion, we have the best chance yet to make real progress in August. Here's the dope:
Please come to Chicago for the assembly. The dates are August 6–11, 2007.
Please register as a visitor on the ELCA website. Cost is $50/person. Visitor status will allow you access to the visitor section of ELCA plenary hall and ELCA worship events. Register through, click on Churchwide Assembly. Registration ends July 15.....

The schedule of events is now available through But here are the highlights:
Tuesday – ELCA hearings on the Sexuality Study.
Tuesday – Educational session at the Hyatt following the hearings with Pastor Bradley Schmeling and members of his congregation in Atlanta.
Wednesday – earliest possible day for ELCA quasi-committee of the whole regarding memorials on blessings, delay, policy change, and refraining from discipline.
Wednesday – 8:00 pm Festival Worship at the Hyatt with Pastor Bradley Schmeling preaching. Reception following.
Thursday – possible day for ELCA debate on memorials – all hands on deck for silent prayer vigil in the hall.
Thursday evening following ELCA workshops at the Hyatt – Full display of the Shower of Stoles project with reception for voting members and visitors.
Friday – possible day for debate if not complete on Thursday
Friday – evening party for all goodsoil allies at the Hyatt
Remember the ultimate outcome is assured. Only the time, the when it happens, is in question. Win or lose in 2007, we will make history and real progress toward full inclusion. Come be a part of this chapter in the movement for full participation.
– Emily Eastwood, Executive Director

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Liberal Explains Rejection of Same-Sex Marriage

Published: June 23, 2007
Could legalizing same-sex marriage actually strengthen marriage as a social institution? “If I could believe this,” writes David Blankenhorn, “I would support gay marriage without reservation.”
Mr. Blankenhorn is a self-described liberal Democrat and “marriage nut,” a veteran leader in the movement to strengthen marriage, and especially fatherhood, in the United States.
His book, “The Future of Marriage,” published last month by Encounter Books, explains why he doesn’t believe same-sex marriage will serve that cause. But given the charged nature of the subject, his book may also set a record for optimism about the human capacity for rational discussion.
Mr. Blankenhorn, who opposes same-sex marriage, believes that the national debate about the issue can be rescued from the polarized clash of gut reactions, religious injunctions, emotional appeals and accusations of bigotry. He even believes the debate could provide “an invaluable opportunity for Americans to have a serious national discussion about marriage’s meaning and future.”
The problem with that debate until now, as he sees it, is that “almost always, the main focus is ‘gay,’ not ‘marriage.’ ”
Mr. Blankenhorn cites what he calls the “wafer-thin” definitions of marriage that increasingly turn up in court decisions and polemical articles about same-sex ties: “a unique expression of a private bond and profound love”; “a private arrangement between parties committed to love”; “the exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other.”
Some of this commitment talk sounds sweet, and some of it, like “committed, interdependent partnerships between consenting adults,” sounds more like a real estate transaction than a marriage. But for Mr. Blankenhorn, these definitions miss the point. He is amused, for instance, at their neo-Victorian avoidance of any mention of sex. Similarly, these definitions dodge any mention of children and parenthood. They emphasize marriage as private and too diverse (“unique”) to be pinned down.
On the contrary, Mr. Blankenhorn writes, marriage is a “social institution,” a set of shared understandings and public meanings that shape expectations and conduct. Marriage has evolved and, yes, may be “constantly evolving”; here Mr. Blankenhorn moves through biology, prehistory, history and anthropology, from ancient Mesopotamia to the Trobriand Islands. But marriage fundamentally involves sexual intercourse and the affiliation — emotionally, practically and legally — between any child created and both parents.
“If this book had a subtitle,” Mr. Blankenhorn writes, “it would be ‘An Argument About Institutions.’ ” He captures his ideas of marriage as an institution with a quotation from a wedding sermon that the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer sent to a young couple from his Nazi prison cell. Bonhoeffer, soon to be executed for his role in a plot against Hitler, wrote, “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”
Mr. Blankenhorn readily admits that the “deinstitutionalization” of marriage that he fears — the redefinition of what he considers the nation’s “most pro-child institution” as a private adult relationship stripped of public meaning — has been under way for a long time. Deeply rooted in American individualism and the quest for self-fulfillment, that redefinition “has been growing for decades, propagated overwhelmingly by heterosexuals.” Same-sex marriage only further erodes marriage as a pro-child institution, he believes.
Mr. Blankenhorn wishes it weren’t so. Unlike many other opponents of same-sex marriage, he explicitly recognizes the rights and needs of gay men and lesbians to be respected and accepted and to form “loving, stable partnerships.”
The debate is not “a simple issue of good versus bad,” he writes. “The real conflict is between one good and another: the equal dignity of all persons and the worth of homosexual love, versus the flourishing of children. On each side, the threat to something important is real. It wastes everyone’s time to pretend that this question is an easy one, and that only bad people can fail to see the right answer.”

The rest of the article.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Defrocked pastor is gay hero in Atlanta

Monday, June 25, 2007
Greg Bluestein
Associated Press

Atlanta- The tattered cloth scraps started arriving at St. John's Lutheran Church shortly after the Rev. Bradley Schmeling took his stand against the church hierarchy, each with an embroidered or drawn message of support.
"God is with you. Make fire in Atlanta," reads one of the hundreds of prayer cloths. "All love is holy," says another.

Schmeling's refusal last year to resign after telling a church bishop he was in a gay relationship has earned him quite a following.

Rest here. It includes "He served as a grand marshal for Sunday's annual gay pride parade in Atlanta, one of the nation's largest such festivals."

An interesting outreach strategy...

Trust in Organized Religion at Near-Record Low

Trust in Organized Religion at Near-Record LowMichelle Rindels06-26-07
(RNS) Americans trust the military and the police force significantly more than the church and organized religion, a new Gallup Poll says.
Only 46 percent of respondents said they had either a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the church, compared with 69 percent who said they trusted the military and 54 percent who trust police officers.

The figures are among the lowest for institutionalized religion in the three and a half decades that Gallup has conducted the poll. Peaking at 68 percent in May 1975, the numbers bottomed out at 45 percent in June of 2003.

But while confidence is waning for organized religion, the numbers are even bleaker for other American institutions. Just 25 percent expressed confidence in the presidency, while a mere 14 percent say they trust Congress.

Rest here.

In your view, did Anglican bishops do the right thing in vetoing a resolution to allow same-sex union blessings in parish churches?

(87%) 31775 votes
(13%) 4714 votes

Total votes: 36489

Interesting, isn't in? Even in supposedly "liberal" Canada, lay people really, really, really, are not in favor of changing the rules.

Globe and Mail here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

WINNIPEG: Emotions run high after blessings defeated

by Marites N. Sison staff writer
The Anglican Journal
June 25, 2007
There were tears in the eyes of some, others bowed in prayer, and some quietly walked out of the plenary room shortly after the defeat on June 24 of the motion to allow the blessing of same-sex unions, only to face church and secular media who wanted to know how they felt about the decision."I think they (bishops) were trying to respond to what they heard in Synod, people wanting more study, time for discernment," said Bishop Fred Hiltz, primate-elect of the Anglican Church of Canada, who had voted in favour. "I have my own personal opinion, as you know, but my responsibility is now to work with this decision. There needs to be a pastoral response. We have a very divided church, and no doubt many, many people will be disappointed by this vote. I will try and reach out pastorally to those who are disappointed."Bishop Michael Ingham, whose Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster authorized rites for same-sex blessings in 2002, said, "No one can take comfort from this vote because the majority voted in favour of local option. For many, there would be a sense of betrayal."Bishop Sue Moxley said she was "just really disappointed" that the house of bishops "would be holding back when it's clear other people are ready to go." She said some dioceses might simply go ahead and allow same-sex blessings.Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton, chair of the Primate's Theological Commission, said, "I don't think there were any winners. We know that people on both sides ... leave tonight with a profound sense of sadness that the body of Christ is broken."Hugh Matheson, of the diocese of Keewatin, said, "It was in some sense a predictable decision. The house of bishops indicated that there wasn't enough support for it in their house. I thought that the discussion that we should go ahead was more articulate, this Synod. It will come up again."Bishop George Bruce of Ontario said, "The bishops didn't have enough of a sense of the house. In New Westminster, Michael Ingham didn't consent until he had 60 per cent (approval)."Other reactions:Canon Garth Bulmer, diocese of Ottawa I'm delighted that the first resolution passed. I think it was another big step in terms of protecting and affirming gay people in their relationships. (I'm) disappointed obviously that General Synod decided not to include the method of implementing it. I think it was a big mistake on the part of the bishops because I think it's going to happen anyway. I believe there's an interpretation that it's not core doctrine and the diocese can decide it.Canon Murray Still, Diocese of Rupert's Land "There's going to be disappointment on both sides. I think in large part we're trying to wrestle with our relationship with the Anglican Communion. We voted for the Communion and our relationship with the global Anglican family."Rev. Jamie Howison, Diocese of Rupert's Land "I was not surprised. They (bishops) do function as the sober second thought. (The motion) was approved by a decent majority by clergy and laity, so the conversation continues.Bishop Phillip Poole, diocese of Toronto I think the synod considered the issue very carefully, thoroughly and very respectfully...The house of bishops has said that it's not prepared to move at this time.Bishop Anderson, diocese of Caledonia I think that the bishops have recognized that our church is really divided, that before we do anything to implement the provisions of this motion we have to build consensus and have further conversation, otherwise it's simply too destructive. I doubt that the bishops are going to be very popular because of this (discussion), but they displayed a lot of wisdom and courage on their part.Richard Leggett, diocese of New Westminster I was encouraged by the votes of the laity and clergy but I understand the difficult position the bishops are in. The clergy are representing the people on the ground, but the bishops are providing for the needs of the wider church.Steve Schuh, diocese of New Westminster I was extremely disappointed with the bishops. We had a good debate, it was very respectful and I very much appreciated it.Bishop Barry Clarke, diocese of Montreal I'm disappointed. However, this is democracy in some way, shape and form and it worked. We'll work through it and see where it leads us. At the moment I know that I have to provide pastoral care for my delegates here because some of them are hurt and my responsibility is to care for them at the moment. When I return to the diocese I will be facing, like many bishops, the real challenges as was mentioned.Bishop Jim Cowan, diocese of British Columbia I think there are people who know that I'm in favour of same-sex unions, but that I've been asking for the theological rationale for it to be an issue of justice. Justice is a theological issue, let's name that and get that all on the table and bring along as many people as possible in this and I think in 2010 we can do that and we can also take it to Lambeth and see how many in the Communion can bring it along as well.Gordon Youngman, Diocese of BC I'm disappointed. I was pleased to see at least that the debate was more civil and respectful than three years ago. The House of Bishops has been sent a very strong message that the clergy and laity want to move ahead. The Anglican Church of Canada is effectively paralyzed for the next three years.Bishop John Privett, Kootenay It was a vote to continue the (worldwide Anglican) Communion conversation and it was a vote of support for those bishops who said they face difficulty in their dioceses. It puts us in a position of being asked to wait.Archbishop John Clarke, Athabasca It was a recognition that the effect is not only in our diocese, but in the worldwide Anglican Communion. It should have been addressed as a matter of canon law, not a justice issue. Every time we try to do things that are not part of the process, we get in trouble.Ron Chaplin, an observer who is a member of the Ottawa branch of Integrity, a gay Anglican support group My only real surprise is that the bishops' margin was as narrow as it was. I hope now the bishops will be able to go to Lambeth and speak with their colleagues and say this is where our church stands. I am not upset. The tide is moving (toward approval). The first motion (concerning doctrine) makes a theological space for gay and lesbian people in the church. We now have that doctrinal space. What we have seen is the leadership.END

Jefferts Schori wasn't shy in discussing the church's history in America.
"There are a whole lot of evil tales wrapped up in the history of this place, and a whole lot of good ones," she said. "The rub is telling the difference."
She specifically addressed the church's complicity in the slave trade and the subjugation of American Indians.
"That has not yet fully redeemed itself," she said. "The work is not yet over."
"In the next century, God will call on us all in humility to redeem the evil deeds of the past."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Follow passage or no passage of gay agenda at LCNA

Follow Canadian scandals here.

ELCA scandals here.

Pray for the Anglican Church in Canada and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Both are poised to normalize homosexual activity.

Same-sex unions up for synod debate
More than 300 Anglican and Evangelical Lutheran delegates to synod to decide whether to follow Vancouver bishop's lead

Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2007

WINNIPEG -- Two of the country's largest Protestant denominations are gathering in this warm Prairie city for the next three days to make contentious decisions about how far to go to sanction homosexual relationships.
The Anglican Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which together count almost one million members in Canada, will be debating same-sex blessings that are anathema to many of their denominations' conservative adherents, both in Canada and especially in Africa, where the denomination is expanding rapidly.
Issues surrounding gay and lesbian sexuality and rights have been very public and globally divisive in the Anglican Church.
The rest here.

From An Inch At A Time blog (Susan Russell of Integrity):

"It was Gay Pride Weekend here in L.A. while I was on vacation ... and as I'm getting caught up now and looking back at the "week that was" I thought I'd start there. Here are some photos ... the Good News of God in Christ Jesus AND the Episcopal Church parading down Santa Monica Boulevard."

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Bill Moyers Interviews Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

BILL MOYERS: It was quite a day last fall at The National Cathedral in Washington. For the first time in its history the Episcopal Church of America was installing a woman as its presiding bishop.
NEWSFOOTAGE: Brothers and sisters in Christ, greet the 26th presiding bishop.
BILL MOYERS: Quite a moment for a faith community that traces its roots back over four centuries to the Anglican Church of England.
And quite a moment For Katharine Jefferts Schori. Raised as a catholic, she only became an episcopal priest in 1994. Now, just twelve years later, she had been elected to lead America's two-and-a-half million Episcopalians. Before the priesthood, she was a marine biologist - as familiar with squids as she would become with scripture. Now she presides over a fellowship of 7,600 congregations…
But it's a troubled time for the church. Episcopalians are part of the worldwide Anglican Community of 78 million members…and they are deeply divided over issues of sexuality and the Bible.
VOICE: It is the Bible that says man shall not lie with man neither shall woman lie with a woman - it is an abomination before God.
BILL MOYERS: At a global conference in 1998, their representatives declared homosexuality to be 'incompatible with scripture."
Five years later, defying the world body, U.S. Episcopalians consecrated Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first openly gay bishop in the history of the church.
Traditional Episcopalians at home and Anglicans abroad were outraged. Over 40 American congregations have now voted to leave the fellowship, many to join a new alliance led by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria.
Last February, at an international conference in Tanzania, seven archbishops refused to take communion with Bishop Schori.
Now there is speculation the Episcopal Church of America might be expelled from the worldwide Anglican Community. As the controversy rages, Bishop Jefferts Schori finds serenity in her faith and --- her flying. Her new book is in fact entitled A WING AND A PRAYER.
This week she was down to Earth again and testifying before a Congressional hearing on global warming… as both a biologist and Bishop.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: The crisis of climate change presents an unprecedented challenge to the goodness, interconnectedness and sanctity to the world that God created and loved.
BILL MOYERS: When you look at a squid what does it tell you about the world?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: The incredible wonder of God's creation and the incredible diversity of God's creation. Things that come in different sizes and colors and shapes and body forms are all part of that incredible diversity of creation that's present below the waters where we never even see them. And the Psalms tell us that God delights in that.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: That creation is in some sense God's way of-- loving the world.
BILL MOYERS: Has being a trained biologist shaped your faith journey?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Absolutely. My faith journey has been, as a scientist, about discovering the wonder of creation. That there-- there's a prayer that we, in the Episcopal Church use after baptism that prays that the newly baptized may receive the gift of joy and wonder in all God's works. The kind of work that I did as a scientist was a piece of that, just a small piece.
BILL MOYERS: What do you personally believe brought this world into existence?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: As a scientist, I would embrace something that looks like the Big Bang as an accurate representation of how the best of knowledge today understands the origins of the universe.
As a person of faith-- Genesis tells me that God is in love with this world. That God creates and calls it good, and God finishes creation and calls it very good.
BILL MOYERS: What meaning comes from science?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: The origins of what is, of a connectedness of what is-- the mechanism of how what is has come to be.
BILL MOYERS: And what meaning comes from religion?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: What it means to be in relationship with something beyond ourselves.
BILL MOYERS: 01 With God.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: With God, what it means to be in relationship with other human beings. What it means to be in relationship with the rest of creation.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Christians talk about the body of Christ. A theologian named Sally McFague talks about the body of God as being all of creation. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. That's an essential piece of Paul's theology. If we're not caring adequately for the other parts of the body, we are not only destroying ourselves, but we're destroying our neighbors here and across the world.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: The fact that, you know, how I use carbon might have some impact on a poor person in China.
BILL MOYERS: Or vice versa.
BILL MOYERS: Or the old story that I've heard so often of butterflies- who motion--creates disturbances thousands of miles away And science tells us that, right?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Absolutely. So does religion.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Religion and science are both ways of knowing, but they go at it from somewhat different perspectives. Science asks questions about-- how things happen and where they've come from. Religion and faith traditions ask questions of meaning, about why we're here and what we should do with what we have here, and how we should relate to the rest of creation.
BILL MOYERS: what is it about religion that provides that radical certainty for the people who are often on the other side of the issue from you on most or many things.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Religion is at its best, I think, an invitation into relationship. It's not necessarily a set of instructions for how you deal with every challenging person you run across in the world. It has that at its depth, but it-- does not give one permission to say, "This person is out, and this one's okay and acceptable." And I-- it continually invites us into a larger understanding of that relationship.
BILL MOYERS: And yet so much of religion is about excluding, not connecting, not including.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Connection with the sacred is something that gives people a sense of what is beyond themselves. And the desire to control that I think is one of the basic human failings. If we can control access to the sacred or control how the larger world understands those we like or those we do not like-- we have the ability to change things in creative or destructive directions.
BILL MOYERS: As I read about the conflict in your church, what I find is that both sides treat the Bible as their source, but they come to totally opposite conclusions as to what the Bible says. What do you make of that? As a scientist and a believer.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Our ways of reading Scripture shape the conclusions we come to. And often what we go looking for shapes the conclusions about what we read. I'll give you a-- you know, a loaded example. The story of David and Jonathan.
You know, Canonically, the traditional way of reading that has been about the friendship between two men. It says in the Scripture that David loved Jonathan with a love surpassing women. Many gay and lesbian people in our church today say, "This is a text - that says something constructive about the love between people of the same gender." Yet our tradition has rarely been able to look at it with those eyes. I think that's a fertile ground for some serious Biblical scholarship and some encounter from people who come to different conclusions.
BILL MOYERS: If biology, as I understand it does, tells us that homosexuality is-- is a genetic given. And religion says homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God, can those two perceptions ever be reconciled?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: How do we come to a conclusion that it's a sin in the eyes of God?
BILL MOYERS: Well, you're the-
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: What texts do we read that-
BILL MOYERS: But you know, all of your adversaries say that it is.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Well, I would have them go back to the very sources they find so black and white about that, and ask what's the context of this passage? What was it written to address? What was going on underneath it that this appears to speak to? And I think we find when we do some very serious scholarship, that in almost every case, it's speaking about a cultural context that looks nothing like the one in which we're wrestling with homosexuality today.
BILL MOYERS: So how do you read-- Jonathan and David, that story?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think it's got some-- challenging things to say to us who have said for hundreds of years, thousands of years that it's inappropriate for two men to love each other in that way.
BILL MOYERS: Is this a moral issue to you?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: It's a moral issue in the sense that part of the job of a church is to help all Christians grow up into the full stature of Christ. It's to help all of us to lead holy lives The question is what does that holy life look like?
BILL MOYERS: Well, many conservative, traditional Christians say that the homosexual life is not a holy life.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: They would say that it's only holy if it's celibate. And I think we've got more examples out of Scripture even to offer in challenge to that.
BILL MOYERS: But if it is a moral issue, is there a way somewhere between the positions on this? Or is it impossible for a church divided to agree on that way somewhere between the moral judgments?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: I do believe it's a moral issue because it's about how we love our neighbor. It's about how we live in relationship to God and our neighbors. When I look at other instances in church history, when we've been faced with something similar-- the history in this country over the-- over slavery. The church in the north . Much of it came to a different conclusion than the church in the south-- about the morality of slavery.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: And neither side was comfortable with the breadth of understanding that could include the other. In practice, the Episcopal Church didn't kick out the Confederate part of the church. They kept calling the roll during the Civil War, and when the war was over, they welcomed them back. But in the-- in the heat of the moment it's pretty tough to live with that kind of breadth that can include a position that seems so radically opposed.
BILL MOYERS: It's not my intention to hold Episcopalians up as the only arbiter of this issue because the Catholics are facing it, the Mormons are facing it, the Southern Baptist Convention is facing it. Orthodox Jews are facing it. And Islam, of course. Why are so many religious people uptight about sex?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Because we haven't done an adequate job of talking about the whole human being, I think. Teaching in our faith tradition about the whole human being. And actually Judaism has probably done a better job than most of Christianity.
Celebrating-- celebrating the Sabbath-- for a married couple was often understood to include-- sexual intercourse. A way of welcoming and rejoicing in the presence of God in the midst of the Sabbath. Christianity hasn't been able to say that very effectively.
BILL MOYERS: Why, do you think?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think part of it's our Greek heritage. You know, our tendency toward dualism, that-- you know, one part of a human being or a male human being-- exemplifies spirit and-- a female human being is somehow lesser and-- demonstrates the flesh
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: With our long-development of an anthology that says that heterosexual male is a normative human being. We're-- we've only begun in the last 150 years to really question that.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: And I believe that the wrestling with the place of women in leadership, particularly in public leadership, is directly related to the same kind of issue over the position of gay and lesbian people in leadership, in public leadership.
BILL MOYERS: When you look at what the other side says about homosexuality, and the-- Scriptural tradition, do you grant them anything?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Absolutely. That has been the traditional way of seeing things. It was also why Galileo got in so much trouble. The traditional way of seeing things was that the-- sun went around the earth, not the other way around. If you expect things to be in a certain way, it's hard to see data that ask you to see the world in a very different way.
BILL MOYERS: So you would concede that as people like you want to modernize the Canon, the tradition and the Scripture, the traditionalists who look back and say, "This is our sacred tradition," would not-- want to come along on that journey.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Absolutely. But I would take them back into that tradition to see within it far more complexity than they've been willing to admit.
BILL MOYERS: But can there be compromise and conciliation within the church when the positions are so fixed and the feelings are so strong?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think if we're willing to hold our positions a little more lightly. To say, "Yes, this is where we come to as a conclusion out of faithfulness. We understand you may come to a different conclusion, also out of faithfulness. Perhaps we don't have to decide one way or the other immediately." If we're willing to live in that place of a little more humility, yes, we can live together.
BILL MOYERS: But isn't this what liberals say? We would like to talk and have a dialogue and listen. But do you get that coming back from this? I mean, the Bishop of Uganda would not meet with you. Now, you would be willing to meet and listen, but he won't. How can there then be any kind of reconciliation?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Well, the larger structure of the communion did make that a possibility. He was at the table in Tanzania-- in February with me. We had one or two conversations. And clearly we disagree about matters of sexuality. But we do hold some other things in common.
BILL MOYERS: Did you recognize that? I mean, was there any sense of-
BILL MOYERS: --kinship? Can you say communion with somebody who believes so differently from you on this issue?
BILL MOYERS: Can he? Would he? Will he?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: He was not willing to come to communion when I was present, which made me very sad. I know how painful it is to be excluded from the table.
BILL MOYERS: So is this issue going to tear your church apart?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: I don't believe so. I think people are going to be uncomfortable for a while, but-- perhaps that's the kind of stress that leads to growth eventually. I believe that-- perhaps a few more people may decide they have to go somewhere else. That they can't live with this-- innovation, in their eyes. But I don't believe it's going to tear our church apart.
BILL MOYERS: It's a fact that the biggest and fastest growing churches in the world are in what we call the global south-- Africa, Latin America, Asia, where the authority of Scripture has not been challenged. In fact, the Anglican community in Nigeria-- your counterpart to Episcopalians in this country have seven times the numbers you do in this country. What are they doing right that you aren't?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: They're functioning in a very different context. They're functioning in an environment where radical Islam is very much a force in the community, where in fact Christianity and Islam are competing for converts. There's some indication that membership in a faith tradition is less clearly defined than it might be for people here in the United States.
Our context here is of a complex culture faced with issues that are not so often about life and death. That are not about where the next meal is going to come from in most people in mainline traditions. That are not about disease that's likely to kill 40 percent of us before we reach maturity. We're dealing with different, different radical questions of meaning
BILL MOYERS: Now I've been stunned to realize just how deep is the hostility-- to homosexuals in Africa. The penal code of Nigeria provides for up to 14 years imprisonment for homosexuality. It's considered illegal under Nigerian law. And, Islamists in Nigeria, as I understand it, are pressing right now as we speak-- for a new law that would provide for homosexuals to be stoned. So you're-- you're saying this would have some effect on the Christian-- Anglicans in Nigeria.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Absolutely. Right, and the Anglican Archbishop has been working for a similar kind of law to outlaw all kinds of-- not just homosexual activity, but even having conversations about it in public.
BILL MOYERS: Your colleague?
BILL MOYERS: Peter-- Peter Akinola?
BILL MOYERS: How can you ever make peace with that kind of people? Or he with you?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Well, well, I look at where laws were in this country 50 years ago. How many laws were there about sodomy in this country 50 years ago? People were imprisoned-- for being open about their sexuality. It wasn't until Stonewall in the '60s that we began to-
BILL MOYERS: Here in New York.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: --talk about that kind of thing openly.
BILL MOYERS: I've watched the struggle grow within your community, with an American Episcopalian community growing more and more liberal. And the Nigerians and Rwandans and the others growing more and more conservative on this issue. Is it possible that a divorce is the right choice down the road?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: It's-- it's remotely possible. But if we-- if we give up and say that's the only solution, I think we would lose something very precious. The Anglican Communion is one of the only worldwide faith communities that is willing to live with significant diversity of opinion. I think we have something to offer the larger society in teaching people how to live with folks who don't agree with you. It's not always easy, but it is of the Gospel, in my understanding.
BILL MOYERS: What can you and Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, your counterpart, what can you all collaborate on?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think with the help of our colleagues, we can collaborate on more than either of us might expect. He has said quite clearly that he doesn't want the help of the Episcopal Church in any kind of mission work in Nigeria, which is incredibly sad. It also removes us from being able to learn about his context-- to learn about Christian evangelism in a-- in a culture where Islam is so present and vocal. It- prevents both of us from being converted by the conversation.
BILL MOYERS: Do you see any hope of that changing?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: God has a way of keeping us at things like this. Even when some of us would find it more comfortable to depart.
BILL MOYERS: What is God asking you to do?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think God is asking us to build a society where people can live together in peace with a sense of justice. Where people can develop their gifts to the fullest, where people can, in some sense, recover their presence in the garden.
BILL MOYERS: You've even been criticized by some of your liberal colleagues in the American fellowship because you have called for a moratorium for a season on ordaining more gay Bishops. Why did you do that?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: It was a very painful thing to do. My sense was that there might be hope of some kind of broader understanding if we were able to pause. Not go backwards, but pause.
BILL MOYERS: Is it fair to ask some aspiring gay or lesbian person who wants to become a Bishop, like Gene Robinson did in 2003, to wait?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Is it fair? No. It's not fair.
BILL MOYERS: But it's necessary?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: It's a crucified place to stand.
BILL MOYERS: There are some of your dioceses that do not accept your ordination-
BILL MOYERS: --because you are a woman.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: There are three Bishops, three diocesan Bishops.
BILL MOYERS: Three Bishops out of how many?
BILL MOYERS: Women are still up against a stained glass ceiling in religion, are they not? You-- you are an exception
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: All of [the] traditions have within them the seeds of an alternate view. Paul's ability to say that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male and female. Islam-- the presence of women in the earliest strands of that tradition-- and women of some significant position. The Jewish tradition, with-- you know, Miriam as one of the leaders of Israel-- Deborah, among the judges. Women whose places have been often marginalized or forgotten. The many women in the Bib-- Christian Scriptures who are not named.
Mary Magdalene, who is apostle to the apostles, is first to tell the news of the Resurrection, but is-- rejected and marginalized as a prostitute in later Christian thought. Some of what that-- those insights are-- have been apparently too uncomfortable to maintain in the religious tradition.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: The reality is that women have always been very important tradents and passers-on of the tradition. In most cultures in the West . Women have passed on the faith at home. They continue to do that. This church and some other faith traditions have begun to affirm women's ability to do that in the larger public sphere. The early church did it until it got too uncomfortable.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, early in the Christian story, women were a very dynamic presence, and leaders of local congregations. Then came the Bishops.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: There's a very intriguing mosaic somewhere in Italy that-- that apparently says, "Theodora Episcopa" in the feminine. Who knows? Who knows?
BILL MOYERS: I'll be in the last year, there have been moments when you wished it was just you and that squid again in the-
BILL MOYERS: --is that right?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: I miss going to sea. I loved that. But I'm finding this a blessed ministry. Sure, there are challenges to it, but that's what keeps life interesting.
BILL MOYERS: What brings you the greatest joy in a day?
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: I think seeing the signs of health and vitality in the church around the larger church. And they exist everywhere, places where people are focused on serving their neighbors. Places where people are doing new and creative things. Seeing partnerships between a-- church in Iowa and the diocese of Swaziland that's providing clean water. Things like that, that show people at work doing Gospel work.
BILL MOYERS: Bishop Katharine, thank you very much.
BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Thank you, it's been a joy to be here.
BILL MOYERS: Same here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Of heteronormative plumbing and men

From GetReligion.

I’m not terribly clear on why the federal government has a surgeon general but it’s been one of the highest-ranked public health positions in the land since Ulysses S. Grant filled it with John Maynard Woodworth in 1871. President Bush’s nominee for the vacant seat is one Dr. James W. Holsinger, a University of Kentucky professor.
Holsinger has come under fire in the media and among some gay groups mostly for a research paper he wrote for the United Methodist Church in 1991. While he’s not criticized for belonging to the United Methodist Church, which officially believes homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, he’s been criticized for belonging to a congregation that has a ministry to homosexuals who desire to leave the homosexual lifestyle. He’s also been criticized for upholding church doctrine with regard to approving same-sex unions or permitting ordination of gay clergy.
But the big news has been over the research paper. Major kudos to the Lexington Herald-Leader and ABC News for posting the paper online. In the paper, which is very brief but contains citations from the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, he argues that the male and female sex are “indeed complementary.” Nothing terribly earth shattering there. He also goes into great detail about the increased incidences of disease and trauma among those whose sexual behavior involves the gastrointestinal tract. The report was given to a committee studying whether to change the church’s position that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. The UMC retained its position.
Comparing the results of male homosexual behavior to those of male heterosexual behavior used to be a topic for discussion. Suffice to say that such comparisons are not frequently seen these days. I”m not sure why — if it’s changing ideas about the morality of homosexuality or political correctness dominating academia or a changed understanding of human sexuality and its ramifications in the medical community. I really don’t know why — but there has definitely been a change in how we discuss these issues.
It’s a very interesting story — not only because the topic is rather salacious but also because it says a lot about newsrooms, modern culture and how our approach to issues changes over time. One of the things that makes the report difficult to cover is that it basically lists studies showing higher incidences of medical problems associated with anal erotic behavior. Some of it is graphic, as medical issues tend to be. So media reports have focused on this section of the paper, which is written rather clearly and without graphic descriptions:
[I]t is clear that even primitive cultures understand the nature of waste elimination, sexual intercourse, and the birth of children. Indeed our own children appear to intuitively understand these facts. I think we should note that these simple “scientific facts are the same in any culture - patriarchal or matriarchal, modern or primitive, Jewish or gentile, etc. The anatomic and physiologic facts of alimentation and reproduction simply do not change based on any cultural setting. In fact, the logical complementarity of the human sexes has been so recognized in our culture that it has entered our vocabulary in the form of naming various pipe fittings either the male fitting or the female fitting depending upon which one interlocks within the other. When the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur as noted above.
Sarah Vos at the Herald-Leader characterized that section as follows:
Like male and female pipe fittings, certain male and female body parts are designed for each other . . . Holsinger wrote . . .
Here’s how Associated Press reporter Jeffrey McMurray conveyed the report:
Sixteen years ago, he wrote a paper for the church in which he likened the reproductive organs to male and female “pipe fittings” and said homosexuality is therefore biologically unnatural.
Uh, not exactly. He said that it was so obvious how male and female genitalia were complementary and it was so well understood by everyone — even reporters, one could presume — that the terms male and female are used to describe pipe fittings. Again, he argues, the complementary nature of the sexes is so obvious that we even use the words male and female in other contexts. To say that he compared male and female genitalia to pipe fittings is to miss the point of his argument and make it seem less nuanced.
Either way, I’m not sure why that portion of the paper is so noteworthy. If it is noteworthy, it makes one pause — is it possible that the plumbing profession is suffering from heteronormativity? Is it a good thing that plumbers developed their vocabulary before political correctness took over? And how, exactly, would people who oppose Holsinger on this point recommend we rename pipes?
Jake Tapper’s article for ABC suffered from a horrible headline but his story was much better. First, the headline:
‘Homosexuality Isn’t Natural or Healthy’Bush’s Choice for Top Doc Compared Human Genitalia to Pipe Fittings and Said Homosexual Practices Can Cause Injury or Death
Only problem with the headline is that Holsinger neither said nor wrote the words that he’s quoted as saying. And we’ve already discussed the problem with the subhead.
Anyway, Tapper actually quoted in detail from the paper and showed some substantive responses to it under the heading “What Holsinger’s Paper Argues”:
Holsinger’s paper argued that male and female genitalia are complementary — so much so “that it has entered our vocabulary in the form of naming pipe fittings either the male fitting or the female fitting depending upon which one interlocks within the other.” Body parts used for gay sex are not complementary, he wrote. “When the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur.”
Holsinger wrote that “[a]natomically the vagina is designed to receive the penis” while the anus and rectum — which “contain no natural lubricating function” — are not. “The rectum is incapable of mechanical protection against abrasion and severe damage . . . can result if objects that are large, sharp or pointed are inserted into the rectum,” Holsinger wrote.
The explanation goes on for three more paragraphs or so. Precisely because summation of controversial issues doesn’t work well for reporters, Tapper handled this brilliantly. He explained difficult words, quoted directly and somewhat extensively from the paper and put it in context of the question the church was trying to answer. He also goes on to quote a number of people, such as the head of the Kinsey Institute, who surprisingly doesn’t agree with Holsinger. The head of the Kinsey Institute also accuses Holsinger of being political. Which is kind of funny.
It might have been good to get some quotes from neutral observers, less political observers or more religiously-oriented observers. To that end, I thought Vos at the Herald-Leader did a good job of putting Holsinger’s professional views — as opposed to his religious views as a Methodist — into focus:
Holsinger’s colleagues at the University of Kentucky were surprised to learn of the views expressed in the 1991 paper. They said his personal objections to homosexuality — if he had any — would not affect policy decisions as surgeon general.
They pointed to a 2002 incident in which Holsinger, then chancellor of the UK Medical Center, defended a session on lesbian health issues at a women’s health conference over the objection of two state senators. The senators threatened to withhold funding because of the 90-minute session.
Phyllis Nash, who organized the conference, said Holsinger did not have to be persuaded to defend the session. “He basically said we are obligated as individuals to meet the needs of everyone, regardless of orientation.”
At the time, Holsinger defended the session in a Herald-Leader article. “It’s important to educate health care professionals on the issues that surround lesbians,” he said. “It’s important professionals have the knowledge base to do care for these patients in a quality manner.”
It was this vignette that made the story particularly interesting for me. Not that we really know the extent of Holsinger’s personal views or religious views on homosexuality, but let’s say Holsinger has the view that his religious beliefs on this topic should have no bearing on his professional vocation. How does that compare with those Roman Catholic politicians such as John Kerry and Rudy Guiliani who support abortion rights despite their personal view that it is horrible? That it literally destroys an innocent human life? Do you see any differences in how the media treat this issue?
And which angles and approaches on this surgeon general story would you recommend?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Pittsburgh's Largest Presbyterian Church Votes to Split

An overwhelming majority of members at the largest church in the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Pittsburgh presbytery voted Sunday to split from the denomination and affiliate with a smaller Presbyterian group.
Mon, Jun. 04, 2007

An overwhelming majority of members at the largest church in the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Pittsburgh presbytery voted Sunday to split from the denomination and affiliate with a smaller Presbyterian group.
Over 1,200 people attend Memorial Park Church's Sunday worship service, and of 1,051 members who voted, 958 favored a request to seek dismissal from the PC(USA) over the denomination's departure from traditional doctrines concerning the Holy Trinity and the authority of the Bible. Dr. D. Dean Weaver, senior pastor of Memorial Park Church in Allison Park, Pa., said the members affirmed that it is time to "realign ourselves with other Presbyterians in our country and around the world who believe the same things we do and have the same passion for evangelism and for missions."Considering the unanimous vote, a formal request was made asking the Pittsburgh Presbytery to dismiss the church from the PC(USA) in order to join the conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC)."We are saddened that Memorial Park members and leaders have elected to separate from the Presbyterian Church," James Mead, Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery, said in a statement. "However, we believe that wrestling with such painful issues is part of God's redemptive plan for the world. It is our prayer that as we move forward, our Christian love for each other will shine forth into our community as a witness to the risen Lord."For the 93 members who did not vote in favor of the split, Mead said the presbytery and the session will work together to provide pastoral care. Meanwhile, negotiations for church property ownership may begin this week.
Sunday's vote closely follows East Tennessee Presbytery's decision last Tuesday to approve the dismissal of Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church along with its property to EPC. Also the largest in its local presbytery, the 1,800-member church in Signal Mountain, Tenn., had voted 1,082-10 in January to request dismissal. Considering such an overwhelming majority vote to leave, an appointed administrative review committee said the church is not in schism and thus "with deep regret and sorrow" dismissed the church "with all its property, real or personal, without condition.”
Like many of the dissident churches, Signal Mountain Church experienced growing dissatisfaction with the PC(USA) - the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States with 2.4 million members - over the past two decades, citing differences with the denomination over the recognition of the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ and scriptural authority.
Despite the split, the administrative committee further allowed the church to retain the name "Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church." The church is currently in the process of being received into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.Similarly, members at Memorial Park also reaffirmed their Presbyterian roots. "At Memorial Park, we will always be Presbyterian. We are a conservative, evangelical, missions-oriented Presbyterian Church,” said Jay Roy, a ruling elder and former president of the Pittsburgh Federal Home Loan Bank, in a statement. " Our motto is ‘preaching the unchanging Word to an ever-changing world.’ Without apology, we believe that the Bible is God’s infallible Word. We are unashamed when we proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only Way, Truth and Life.” The latest vote and dismissal comes weeks ahead of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church's 27th General Assembly, scheduled for June 20-23. The conservative body had invited congregations from the New Wineskins Association of Churches – a network of Presbyterians discontent with the PC(USA) – to create a non-geographic presbytery under the EPC where churches can realign. The EPC is comprised of some 180 churches representing 75,000 members in the United States.
Lillian Kwon Christian Post Reporter

Sunday, June 03, 2007

LCNA: Summary of synod assembly results, through May 22, 2007

Summary of synod assembly results, through May 22, 2007
MEMORIAL 1 (directing amendments to V&E, D&G, and reinstatement policy – PASSED BY EIGHT SYNODS: Sierra Pacific; South/Central Wisconsin; Southeastern Pennsylvania; Northeastern Minnesota; Rocky Mountain; Metro New York; Southwestern Washington; and Oregon.
MEMORIAL 1 – DEFEATED BY FOUR SYNODS: Eastern Washington-Idaho; Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana; Northwestern Ohio; Southwestern Texas.
MEMORIAL 2 (encouraging refraining) – PASSED BY TWO SYNODS: Rocky Mountain and Oregon.
MEMORIAL 2 – DEFEATED BY FOUR SYNODS: Southeastern Pennsylvania; Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana (combined with Mem. 3); Metro New York; Southwestern Texas.
MEMORIAL 3 (endorsing restraint) – PASSED BY THREE SYNODS: Southeastern Michigan (variant form); Rocky Mountain; and Oregon.
MEMORIAL 3 – DEFEATED BY SIX SYNODS: Southeastern Pennsylvania; Eastern Washington-Idaho; Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana (combined with Mem. 2); Florida-Bahamas; Metro New York (postponed indefinitely); Southwestern Texas.
MEMORIAL TO DELAY ACTION UNTILL 2009 – PASSED BY TWO SYNODS: Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana and Eastern North Dakota; (Northwestern Ohio passed "delay" only as a synodical resolution, not a memorial to the Churchwide Assembly).
MEMORIAL AGAINST BLESSING SAME-GENDER UNIONS – PASSED BY ONE SYNOD: Eastern North Dakota; (Southwestern Minnesota and Northwestern Ohio passed synodical resolutions against blessing unions, but not memorials to the Churchwide Assembly).
DID NOT CONSIDER MEMORIALS TO CHURCHWIDE ASSEMBLY – SIX SYNODS: Arkansas-Oklahoma; Western Iowa; Southwestern Minnesota; Pacifica; Northern Great Lakes; North/West Lower Michigan.
A full one-third of all assemblies will occur in the weekend of May 31–June 4. Almost another one-third will occur the next week end, June 7–9.

Missing Body Parts!

May 18, 2007
Update on the "missing" project
We need your help. For several months you have received messages and seen Concord articles and web postings about the "missing" project. I want you to understand why LC/NA is supporting this project and how the statistics gathered will be used.
For LC/NA the purpose of the project is to gather statistical information on everyone who has been excluded from the ministry by Lutheran denominational policies precluding partnered LGBT people from rostered service.
LC/NA and our goodsoil partners will share this statistical information with the voting members of the ELCA at the Churchwide Assembly in August. While statistics can never convey the pain of each story, they attempt to quantify the degree of loss to the church, loss contrary to God's call. Our silence keeps our church blissfully in the dark.
Who is invited to participate:
If you ever considered the ministry and decided against it because of the policy of exclusion;
If you went to seminary and quit somewhere in the middle;
If you finished seminary but were never ordained;
If you were ordained or rostered as a lay professional and then left the ministry:
Through voluntary resignation;
Through forced resignation;
Through trial and removal;
Through denial of on leave from call status;
Through expiration of call;
Through expiration of on leave from call status;
If you left the Lutherans for greener pastures in a more welcoming denomination;
If you are rostered or pursuing roster status with the Extraordinary Candidacy Project.
If you are an ally and left the ministry or the denomination because of the policy.
You get the picture. We need all of you to answer, if these questions apply to you. Think hard about people you know who qualify for this study.
Please don't blow this off as another on line survey.
The instructions are simple: if you qualify send an email to Pastor Vicki Pedersen, project researcher, will take it from there.
If you know people who qualify, have them email Your confidentiality is assured as requested.
There are thousands of you out there who have stories to tell. God knows who you are. The church needs to know how many you are.
Please help.
Blessings,Emily EastwoodExecutive Director

Church to celebrate Brooklyn Pride Week

From the Metro NY Synod newsletter:

Church to celebrate Brooklyn Pride Week
St. John-St.Matthew-Emanuel, Brooklyn (Pr. David Parsons), will host an interfaith worship service on June 6, 7:30 p.m. in celebration of Brooklyn Pride Week. Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender persons, and their families and friends, are welcome to gather around the theme "Dwelling in God's House: the Lord is my Shepherd." Several choirs will sing, and light refreshments will be served in the Social Hall following worship. 718-768-0528,, or

The Unhappy Fate of Optional Orthodoxy

From First Things:
I’ll presume to call it Neuhaus’ Law, or at least one of his several laws: Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed. Some otherwise bright people have indicated their puzzlement with that axiom but it seems to me, well, axiomatic. Orthodoxy, no matter how politely expressed, suggests that there is a right and a wrong, a true and a false, about things. When orthodoxy is optional, it is admitted under a rule of liberal tolerance that cannot help but be intolerant of talk about right and wrong, true and false. It is therefore a conditional admission, depending upon orthodoxy’s good behavior. The orthodox may be permitted to believe this or that and to do this or that as a matter of sufferance, allowing them to indulge their inclination, preference, or personal taste. But it is an intolerable violation of the etiquette by which one is tolerated if one has the effrontery to propose that this or that is normative for others.
A well-mannered church can put up with a few orthodox eccentrics, and can even take pride in being so very inclusive. "Oh, poor Johnson thinks we’re all heretics," says the bishop, chuckling between sips of his sherry. The bishop is manifestly pleased that there is somebody, even if it is only poor old Johnson, who thinks he is so adventuresome as to be a heretic. And he is pleased with himself for keeping Johnson around to make him pleased with himself. If, however, Johnson’s views had the slightest chance of prevailing and thereby threatening the bishop’s general sense of security and well-being, well, then it would be an entirely different matter.

So it was that some church bodies muddled through for a long time with leaderships that trimmed doctrine to the dictates of academic fashion and popular prejudice (the two, more often than not, being the same) while permitting the orthodox option as a kindness to those so inclined, and as testimony to the "balance" so cherished by placeholders radically devoted to the middle way. It was not always an entirely unattractive accommodation. In religion, too, sensible people prefer to be neither fanatic nor wimp. Considering the alternatives, and if one has the choice, it is nice to try to be nice.

Non-optional Orthodoxy
But then what used to be called orthodoxy came up against a new orthodoxy. The new liberal orthodoxy of recent decades is hard and nasty; compared to it, the old orthodoxy was merely quaint. The old orthodoxy was like a dotty old uncle in the front parlor; the new orthodoxy is a rampaging harridan in the family room. The old orthodoxy claimed to speak for the past, which seemed harmless enough. The new orthodoxy claims to speak for the future and is therefore the bearer of imperatives that brook no opposition. The choice of a few to live in the past could be indulged when the future was thought to be open and undetermined. Tolerating the orthodox was also a way of playing it safe. You never know: maybe the ways of the past would come around again. But the old orthodoxy that is optional is proscribed by the new orthodoxy, which is never optional.

The easy-going liberal tolerance that long prevailed was at home with accommodating preferences but uneasy about the question of truth. Not that it denied that there is a truth about this or that, but, then, who was to say what that truth might be? When the question of truth is bracketed-that is, when it is denied in practice-one can choose to be tolerant of a splendid array of "truths." Or one might decide that there really is no truth that makes tolerance necessary, and choose another course. The alternative to the course of tolerance is the course of power. Tolerance suspends judgment; the will to power acknowledges no reason for restraint.

In some churches, the new orthodoxy is most aggressively manifest in feminist and homosexual (or, as it is said, "lesbigay") agitations. These, however, are but the more conspicuous eruptions that follow upon a determined denial of the normative truths espoused by an older orthodoxy. Proponents of the new orthodoxy will protest, with some justice, that they, too, are committed to normative truths. These truths, however, are not embodied in propositions, precedent, ecclesial authority, or, goodness knows, revelation. They are experiential truths expressing the truth of who we truly are-"we" being defined by sex, race, class, tribe, or identifying desire ("orientation").
Identity is Trumps
With the older orthodoxy it is possible to disagree, as in having an argument. Evidence, reason, and logic count, in principle at least. Not so with the new orthodoxy. Here disagreement is an intolerable personal affront. It is construed as a denial of others, of their experience of who they are. It is a blasphemous assault on that most high god, "My Identity." Truth-as-identity is not appealable beyond the assertion of identity. In this game, identity is trumps. An appeal to what St. Paul or Aquinas or Catherine of Sienna or a church council said cannot withstand the undeniable retort, "Yes, but they are not me!" People pack their truths into what Peter Berger has called group identity kits. The chief item in the kit, of course, is the claim to being oppressed.

Nobody denies that there are, for instance, women, blacks, American Indians, and homosexuals beyond number who do not subscribe to the identities assigned their respective groups. This, however, does not faze those in charge of packing and distributing identity kits. They explain that identity dissidents, people who do not accept the identities assigned them, are doubly victimized-victims of their oppressors and victims of a false consciousness that blinds them to the reality of their being oppressed. Alternatively, identity dissidents are declared to be traitors who have been suborned into collaboration with the deniers of who they are. The proponents of truth-as-identity catch the dissidents coming and going. They say their demand is only for "acceptance," leaving no doubt that acceptance means assent to what they know (as nobody else can know!) is essential to being true to their authentic selves. Not to assent is not to disagree; it is to deny their humanity, which, especially in churches credally committed to being nice, is not a nice thing to do.

This helps explain why questions such as quota-ized representation, women’s ordination, and homosexuality are so intractable. There is no common ground outside the experiential circles of identity by which truth is circularly defined. Conservatives huff and puff about the authority of Scripture and tradition, while moderates appeal to the way differences used to be accommodated in the early church (before ca. 1968), but all to no avail. Whatever the issue, the new orthodoxy will not give an inch, demanding acceptance and inclusiveness, which means rejection and exclusion of whatever or whomever questions their identity, meaning their right to believe, speak, and act as they will, for what they will do is what they must do if they are to be who they most truly are. "So you want me to agree with you in denying who I am?" By such reasoning, so to speak, the spineless are easily intimidated.

An Instructive Tale
Contentions between rival orthodoxies is an old story in the Church, and the battles that have been fought are riddled with ironies. An earlier round of the difficulties encountered by optional orthodoxy is nicely recounted by John Shelton Reed in a new book, Glorious Battle: The Cultural Politics of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism (Vanderbilt University Press). The Oxford Movement associated with John Henry Newman set out to restore to the Church of England an orthodox and catholic substance that it had presumably once possessed. By the middle of the 1840s, Newman and others came to the conclusion that the via media they had championed as an Anglican alternative to both Rome and Protestantism was in fact a "paper church," quite devoid of apostolic reality. After Newman and his companions left, the work of orthodox restoration was continued under the banner of "Ritualism" or "Anglo-Catholicism." It enjoyed the impressive leadership of such as John Keble and Edward Pusey, but in the public mind was more closely connected with sundry aesthetes and eccentrics for whom Anglo- Catholicism was, says Reed, a "countercultural" assault on the Victorian establishment.

It is a mark of the restorationists’ success that they were soon perceived as a serious threat by the bishops at their sherry, and by Englishmen of consequence (their wives tended to be more sympathetic) who resented any departure from the unapologetic Protestantism of the national religion. In 1874, unhappiness led to parliament passing the Public Worship Regulation Act, which landed a number of Anglo-Catholic clerics in jail for short stays. Checked by this establishment opposition, Reed notes that the ritualists did an about-face.
In their earlier restorationist mode, they had insisted that the entire church should conform to the normative orthodoxy that they claimed was constitutive of the Anglican tradition. By the 1870s, however, it had become evident that any steps toward uniformity would be at the expense of the Anglo-Catholics. Whereupon Anglo-Catholics became the foremost opponents of uniformity and enthusiastically championed ecclesiastical pluralism. All they were asking for, they said, was "tolerance and forbearance" for their way of being Anglican. In 1867, the Rev. Charles Walker was urging upon the Royal Commission on Ritual that peace could be found in the agreement "that the National Establishment embraces in its bosom two separate religions." Of course that appeal failed to carry the day, as is almost inevitably the case when previously tolerated options threaten the establishment.

Reed, an Episcopalian who teaches at the University of North Carolina, sums up the irony of Anglo-Catholicism: "A movement that originally championed orthodoxy had come to defend freedom; begun in opposition to religious liberalism, the movement now appealed to liberal values for its survival. Cardinal Manning, once an Anglo-Catholic clergyman himself, saw the irony, and maintained that ’Ritualism is private judgment in gorgeous raiment, wrought about with divers colors.’ He declared that ’every fringe in an elaborate cope worn without authority is only a distinct and separate act of private judgment; the more elaborate, the less Catholic; the nearer the imitation, the further from the submission of faith.’" Reed adds, "Although some denied it, Manning had a point."

Defending Enclaves
It took a long time for Anglo-Catholicism to be thoroughly routed, but the job seems now almost complete. Among Anglo-Catholics in this country, many have left for Rome or Constantinople, some have joined up with groups of "continuing Anglicanism," and a few are determined to make yet another valiant last stand, despite a long and depressing record of failed last stands. In England there is the peculiar spectacle of "flying bishops," a kind of parallel episcopate ministering to parishes that are no longer in communion with their own bishops. That is generally conceded to be a transient arrangement.
Within the Episcopal and other liberal church bodies, it is still possible, here and there, to defend parochial enclaves of orthodox teaching and catholic sensibility. But those who seek safe haven in such enclaves frequently suspect that Cardinal Manning was right: there is something deeply incoherent about sectarian catholicity. There are numerous groups in this country-Baptist, Missouri Lutheran, Reformed, Pentecostalist-that maintain their version of orthodoxy in a way that is not optional. Setting aside the theological merits of their orthodoxies, such groups are sociologically secure; in their world, they are the establishment, and to that world the new and nasty orthodoxy of truth- as-identity is not admitted. Some of us may think such immunity comes at too high a price. But for those to whom sectarianism is no vice, and may even be a virtue, such withdrawal and disengagement seems like no price at all.
The circumstance is very different for those Christians to whom it matters to be part of the Great Tradition. One thinks especially of Lutherans, Anglicans, and those Reformed who claim the heritage of John Nevin and Philip Schaff; all think of themselves as "evangelical catholics" in ecclesial bodies temporarily separated from upper case Catholicism and upper case Orthodoxy. Anglo-Catholicism was the most impressively institutionalized form of this self-understanding. But, whether in its Reformed, Lutheran, or Anglican expressions, movements of normative restoration were compelled to settle for being tolerated options, and now it seems even that is denied them.
Almost five hundred years after the sixteenth-century divisions, the realization grows that there is no via media. The realization grows that orthodoxy and catholicity can be underwritten only by Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Perhaps more than any other single factor, the influence of Anglo-Catholicism among Protestants obscured this reality for a long time. It is a considerable merit of John Shelton Reed’s Glorious Battle that it contributes to our understanding of why movements of catholic restoration, posited against the self- understanding of the communities they would renew, turn into an optional orthodoxy. A century later, an illiberal liberalism, much more unrelenting than the Victorian establishment, will no longer tolerate the option. It is very much like a law: Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Formerly gay examined

May 15, 2007

Formerly gay?
by Amy Johnson Frykholm

Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement
by Tanya Erzen
University of California Press, 293 pp., $19.95 paperback

Erzen offers some of the nuances that we miss when we are focused on black-and-white politics and the pronouncements of organizational spokespeople.
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Be Not Deceived: The Sacred and Sexual Struggles of Gay and Ex-Gay Christian Men
by Michelle Wolkomir
Rutgers University Press, 225 pp., $23.95
Wolkomir's account is both compassionate and dispassionate, providing much vital material for challenging stereotypical assumptions.
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In the aftermath of New Life Church pastor Ted Haggard's fall from grace amid allegations of gay sex and drug use, a subtle controversy emerged among conservative Christians.Three weeks after the Colorado Springs pastor left for an undisclosed treatment center to grapple with his sexuality, pastor Tim Ralph announced that Haggard had emerged from those meetings "completely heterosexual." Among those who questioned this pronouncement was Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, an umbrella organization for what is called the ex-gay movement. Chambers politely contended that Ralph had possibly misunderstood the dynamics of sexuality involved in the Haggard case. He was quick to caution that Haggard's story is not typical of people involved in ex-gay therapy and that "recovery" from homosexuality is a long process.The ex-gay movement is controversial and misunderstood. Essentially, ex-gay leaders argue that homosexuality is caused by a particular kind of home environment and that homosexuals can change their behavior with the help of therapy and through a relationship with Jesus Christ.Two recent books help make sense of the ex-gay movement and its complexities through careful research. Tanya Erzen wrote Straight to Jesus after spending a year at New Hope Ministry in California, a residential treatment program for men who hope to change their homosexual behavior. Erzen interviewed both participants and leaders, attended group meetings, worked in New Hope's office and helped design the ministry's Web site. Her book draws on a wealth of personal relationships.At the heart of Erzen's analysis is a point about ex-gay ministries that the media often miss: most ex-gay ministries are skeptical about their ability to "cure" homosexuality. While many people involved in these ministries have heterosexual marriage and biological children as their ultimate goal, and while they idealize heterosexual relationships, most ex-gay people find themselves part of a third category.Ex-gay people believe that they will still experience homosexual desire and maybe even occasionally "fall," but that through gradual religious conversion, sexual conversion can happen as well. "Sexual identity is malleable and changeable," Erzen writes, "because it is completely entwined with religious conversion." Religious conversion and sexual conversion are so linked that participants don't change their sexual orientation so much as commit to a life of "following Jesus." As one ex-gay woman put it, "First I considered myself a lesbian, then a woman who struggles with lesbianism; now I consider myself a woman of God."Erzen offers some of the nuances that we miss when we are focused on the black-and-white politics and the pronouncements of organizational spokespeople. One such nuance is that while heterosexual marriage and biological children are touted as the ideal by many in conservative Christian politics, ex-gay communities actually provide alternative family structures. Ex-gay people build networks of relationships within the ex-gay community, and these relationships provide the friendship, encouragement and spiritual support that many ex-gay people long for.Another important nuance is that a repeated pattern of "fall" and "redemption" is considered a normal part of the recovery process. People involved in ex-gay ministries accept accountability for such private parts of their lives as sexual fantasy, crushes and fleeting sexual feelings. While the media seem scandalized by the failings of ex-gay people, publishing reports of members being discovered in gay bars or returning to "the gay lifestyle," many ex-gay people take such happenings as part of the reality of their attempt at "recovery." Within the social and religious system to which they are committed, homosexuality is just one sin among others. They expect failings, confession and return as part of a lifelong process.Erzen not only makes possible a better understanding of the ideas that motivate the ex-gay movement, she also offers important portraits of ex-gay individuals. We meet a young man for whom New Hope provides an opportunity to explore his identity and eventually to choose to live as a gay man. "New Hope taught me how to think, how to look inside myself," he says. We meet a much older man, "Paul," who lived with the house leader "Hank" as his lover for many years. Paul calls New Hope his refuge and tells Erzen that he will die outside of the program. During the year that Erzen spends at New Hope, Paul goes to Ohio on a business trip, and news reaches the house of his death. These portraits give a compassionate picture of ex-gay people that could perhaps be attained in no other way than through engagement with their stories. Disagreements with New Hope's methods, ideology, theology and practice are complicated by an encounter with ex-gay people's experiences.The richness of Erzen's research is not matched in Michelle Wolkomir's Be Not Deceived, but the latter has a significant story to tell as well. Wolkomir documents the theological and practical methods of two men's Bible study groups. One group is a part of the Metropolitan Community Church and helps men to live as gay Christians. The other is an Exodus International group that tries to lead men out of homosexuality. Wolkomir is primarily focused on these more limited contexts, and she does not bring individual men's stories to life in the same way as Erzen.Her important contribution is to take us beyond the two groups' oppositional political positions. She underscores their common religious heritage, a version of Christianity that emphasizes personal salvation and the centrality of testimony. Both groups retrain men in their understanding of what it means to be a good Christian, and they direct participants' emotional lives in very focused directions—one toward openness and acceptance, the other toward a particular understanding of morality that includes falls and redemption. Moving between these two different perspectives helps to overcome the simplistic and divisive language that we often use to discuss homosexuality.Wolkomir also includes a fascinating chapter on the experiences of women whose husbands are involved in ex-gay ministries. She attempts to understand how these women make sense of their marriage, their religious commitment, and their husband's attraction to other men. Wolkomir's approach and her subsequent account are both compassionate and dispassionate, providing much vital material for challenging stereotypical assumptions.Books like Erzen's and Wolkomir's are increasingly important as Christians struggle with questions of sexual identity. They should be widely read by people who want to understand the political positions not only in the light of theological pronouncements, but also through the textures of individual lives and experiences.
Amy Johnson Frykholm, author of Rapture Culture, teaches at Colorado Mountain College.

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