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Nigerian church support for sodomy laws: The Church of England Newspaper, February 21, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage.
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Faith leaders in Nigeria have unanimously applauded the revisions to the country’s sodomy law, and have denounced as imperialist, racist and condescending Western pressure to change the country’s attitude towards homosexuality.

Leaders of the Muslim community as well as the head of the country’s Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches applauded President Goodluck Jonathan for signing a law banning same-sex marriage, gay clubs and public displays of same-sex affection into law on 7 January 2014.

While overseas Catholic and Anglican leaders including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have expressed reservations about the new law, their Nigerian counterparts have endorsed the ban on gay marriage.

In an open letter written to President Jonathan published by the Catholic News Service of Nigeria, the press arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama called the new law “a bold and clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand up for the protection of the highest values ​​of the Nigerian and African cultures around the ‘ institution of marriage and the dignity of the human person, without giving in to international pressure to promote unethical practices of homosexual unions and other related vices. ”

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh stated his church also opposed the introduction of gay marriage into Nigeria. In a speech given at a banquet honouring retired Archbishop Peter Akinola, Archbishop Okoh was reported to have said the underlying issue was not homosexuality itself, but man’s rebellion against God’s law.

“Many people do not realise that what is referred to as the homosexual trouble is not the homosexual or lesbian trouble but people’s refusal to accept the Scripture for what it is, authority for life and practice following God.”

“In the beginning, man questioned the authority of God in the garden by saying did God actually say that you should not eat the forbidden fruit. That challenge to God’s authority dethroned God’s power and enthroned man’s power. So they concluded that God has no right to tell man what to do and that they were the people who knew what to do. So man set God aside and took over the command. Consequently, disaster followed,” he said according to Channels TV in Lagos.

The question for Nigeria was not merely government sanction for sexual sin, but the decision Adam and Eve faced in the Garden of Eden to defy God, he argued.

The controversy over gay rights and gay marriage in Nigeria has also been played out in the national legislatures of Uganda, Tanzania and Cameroon which are in the process of adopting laws banning gay marriage.

Both Nigerian prelates were sharply critical of overseas political pressure to adopt Western sexual mores.

Archbishop Kaigama  thanked President Jonathan for his “brave and wise decision” to sign the bill into law and prayed that God would protect his “administration against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent as a dumping ground for the promotion of all the unethical practices, that destroy God’s plan for man.”

Church of Norway clergy union backs gay marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, January 24, 2014 January 27, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Norway, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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The executive council of the Church of Norway’s clerical union has given its support to church gay marriage. At its December meeting, the union’s central board, the Presteforeningen, unanimously voted to ask the Church of Norway to prepare a rite for the blessing of gay marriages.

Founded in 1900, the Presteforeningen, or Priestly Union counts 2500 clergy and candidates for Holy Orders among its members. It serves as a trade union for the clergy in negotiating wages, conditions of work and other professional concerns.

In 2008 the Norwegian parliament was the first among the Scandinavian countries to revise revised its marriage laws to permit same-sex or gender neutral marriage, followed by Sweden 2008, Iceland 2010, and Denmark 2012.  While the Church of Sweden in 2009 authorized its clergy to perform same-sex the Church of Norway has so far declined to follow the government’s lead.

The executive committee’s vote has sparked dissent among clergy ranks, however. NTB reports that 50 clergy have quit the union in protest since the vote, including the former Bishop of Agder and Telemark, the Rt. Rev. Olav Skjevesland.

TEC’s first gay bishop dies: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2013 January 16, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, The Episcopal Church, Utah.
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The Episcopal Church’s first “out” gay bishop has died.  The Rt. Rev. E. Otis Charles, retired Bishop of Utah and former Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., died on 26 December 2013 at a hospice in San Francisco. He was 87.

Ordained in 1951, Bishop Charles was elected Bishop of Utah in 1971 and held the post until his retirement in 1986. He served as Bishop of Navajoland for two years before accepting the post of Dean and President of EDS, retiring a second time in 1993.

A father of five, Bishop Charles told his wife he was gay in 1976. Upon his retirement from EDS he informed the House of Bishops of his sexual orientation and announced he and his wife Elvira were divorcing. In 1995 Bishop Charles wrote Breaking the Silence: Out in the Work Place, stating his support for changing church teaching on the morality of homosexual relations. In 2008 Bishop Charles took part in a civil same-sex marriage to his partner Felipe Sanchez-Paris, who predeceased him.

He remained an active member of the House of Bishops in retirement and took up residence in San Francisco, where he served as an honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of California.

Francis the homophile: Get Religion, January 3, 2014 January 6, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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With but a few exceptions, the “Francis is nicer than Benedict” meme continues to entrance the Anglophone press.

It appears that many who were once hostile to the Catholic Church have been encouraged to see in the new pontiff a reflection of their own social and political desires. Some of these assertions about what the pope believes and what he will do as head of the Catholic Church have bordered on the fantastic.

In choosing the pope as its “person of the year”, Time magazine’s editor Nancy Gibb wrote Francis had:

done something remarkable: he has not changed the words, but he’s changed the music.

The new pope was a kinder, gentler man, Time believed, who had rejected “church dogma.” He was teaching a softer, more inclusive Catholicism, noting his:

focus on compassion, along with a general aura of merriment not always associated with princes of the church, has made Francis something of a rock star.

This is rather mild compared to some liberal paeans to the pontiff. The Guardian‘s Jonathan Freedland quipped “Francis could replace Obama as the pin-up on every liberal and leftist wall.”

When the gay-lifestyle magazine, The Advocate, named Francis its “person of the year”, it explained its choice by stating:

Pope Francis’s stark change in rhetoric from his two predecessors — both who were at one time or another among The Advocate‘s annual Phobie Awards — makes what he’s done in 2013 all the more daring. First there’s Pope John Paul II, who gay rights activists protested during a highly publicized visit to the United States in 1987 because of what had become known as the “Rat Letter” — an unprecedented damning of homosexuality as “intrinsically evil.” It was written by one of his cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI. Since 1978, one of those two men had commanded the influence of the Vatican — until this year. …

The Advocate saw in Francis the potential for change in church teaching.

Francis’s view on how the Catholic Church should approach LGBT people was best explained in his own words during an in-depth interview with America magazine in September. He recalled, “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

While these stories have focused on Francis in the context of feature or “people” stories, the meme has also made its way into straight news reporting. A story in Saturday’s  Independent illustrates the Francis effect on reporters. “Pope Francis tripled crowds at Vatican during 2013″  should have been a straightforward story. It begins with:

Pope Francis attracted over 6.6 million viewers to his audiences, Masses and other events in Vatican City in 2013. Since being elected for the position in March, the first Jesuit Pope attracted almost triple the number of visitors that gathered to watch former Pope Benedict XVI speak at Vatican City in the whole of 2012.

The story shifts as it then notes Francis had been named by Time and The Advocate as their “person of the year” with a quote used as a segue to what it sees as the pope’s contradictory statements on homosexuality.

However, his track-record as a champion for gay rights in the Catholic Church was marred after he apparently expressed “shock” at gay adoption in December 2013. The Bishop of Malta alleged that Pope Francis gave him his blessing to “speak out” against the Maltese Civil Unions Bill that aims to legalise gay adoption, in his Christmas Sermon.

The first half of the story prompts me to ask, so what? What does the rise in visitors to St Peter’s Square mean? Is this a gauge for something, if so what? What happened to the number of visitors to St Peter’s when Benedict became pope? Why is this news, and not a “fun fact”?

Should we assume, as The Independent does, that the changing tone on homosexuality has prompted a rise in the number of visitors to the Vatican? The Independent may think this to be the case, but from where does the evidence or authority for this assertion arise?

The second half of the story is bizarre. The Independent assumes Francis is a “champion for gay rights”. What does that mean? Is he pushing for a change in doctrine or discipline? When did this happen?  Or has The Independent confused style with substance?

The two parts to this piece, short as it is, do not hang together as a news story. There is no context, no balance, no sourcing to this piece. Though presented as a news story, it is an editorial making the argument that the church should get with the times and ditch its old fashioned teachings on human sexuality — “See how the people flock to Francis because he is a champion of gay rights!”

Should any news story make the assumptions The Independent makes about Pope Francis? Not if they want to practice quality journalism. It has confused fantasy with reality.

First printed in Get Religion.

Time’s betrayal of liberalism: Get Religion, December 23, 2013 January 5, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism.
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Pod PeopleTime magazine’s exercise in gay agitprop was the focus of  Thursday’s Get Religion’s Crossroads podcast. This extraordinarily unprofessional and illiberal article violated just about all of the standards of professional journalism — without resorting to alliteration, I enumerated its failings in my story “Time takes sides in India’s sex wars” as:

unbalanced, excessive adjectives and adverbs, open support of one side of an argument, short of key facts, lacking context, and stylistically flat.

But Lutheran Public Radio’s Todd Wilken and I are likely to disappoint our audience as we did not discuss the underlying issue: decriminalizing same-sex carnal relations in India. We kept the focus of our discussion on journalism and political theory. I grant you a discussion of the importance of Lionel Trilling’s The Liberal Imagination to modern reporting will not set the SEO world aflame as would a talk about the moral rights and wrongs of sodomy, but for those who value journalism and its importance to culture — this is hot stuff.

Julia Duin – one of the stars of the religion beat at Washington Times for many years and now a professor of journalism — commented on the original post that the Time story would not have seen the light of day at the Washington Times. “It’s so depressing to see this” sort of story in a quality publication, she wrote.

 When I wrote for the Washington Times -a much more conservative place – reporters were not allowed to put their opinion into their work. Seems like the bias only leans one way. This for reporters, mind you, not for columnists. I see liberal reporters scoffing at conservative values. I never see the opposite.

Is this merely an ideological fracas? Am I throwing around words like “agitprop” out of political pique? Why is this bad reporting?

American journalism is founded upon a methodology best articulated by the German historian Leopold von Ranke. It is a scientific objective worldview that sees the task of the journalist (like the historian) to report what actually happened (wie es eigentlich gewesen). In this school of writing, the journalist must set aside his own views and present a story on its own terms, to establish what the facts are and let the facts dictate the story. In the Time piece we see ideology dictate the story.

Trilling called upon liberalism to examine its own pieties and commonplaces — good journalism does this too.

First printed in Get Religion.

Time takes sides in India’s sex wars: Get Religion, December 13, 2013 December 13, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism.
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Time magazine reports India’s Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the nation’s colonial era “sodomy laws”, ruling there is no “right” under the constitution to same-sex carnal relations. The court ruled that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code could be repealed but only by the legislature not judicial fiat.

Time is not too happy about this. The magazine’s editorial voice can be heard through out “Homosexuality is Criminal Again as India’s Top Court Reinstates Ban”.  The lede states:

In a surprise move, India’s top court on Wednesday reversed a landmark judgment by a lower court decriminalizing homosexuality in the country. The court said that the law regarding homosexuality could only be changed by the government. “The legislature must consider deleting this provision (Section 377) from law as per the recommendations of the attorney general,” Justice GS Singhvi, the head of the two-judge Supreme Court bench said in Wednesday’s ruling.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court had overturned an archaic colonial law (section 377 of the Indian Penal Code) that made gay sex an offense punishable by up to life imprisonment. Wednesday’s decision shocked many because while anticipation was high not many expected India’s top court, which in the past upheld many progressive rights judgments often going against the government and popular discourse, to revoke such a forward looking judgment.

“Archaic” is also used in the subheading of the story to describe the law. The commentary in the second sentence of this paragraph is not quite accurate. The Attorney General of India had argued in favor of overturning the law — there is a hint of this in the quote from the court’s ruling, but nothing further.

The Hindu, one of India’s leading daily newspapers, noted the attorney general called the sodomy law a British import.

Mr. Vahanvati had said “the introduction of Section 377 in the IPC was not a reflection of existing Indian values and traditions, rather it was imposed upon Indian society by the colonisers due to their moral values. The Indian society prevalent before the enactment of the IPC had a much greater tolerance for homosexuality than its British counterpart, which at this time under the influence of Victorian morality and values in regard to family and the procreative nature of sex.”

Time makes its views clear in this paragraph.

While activists vow to challenge the ruling, the decision to decriminalize homosexuality is now in the hands of New Delhi. And while the good news is that the government has recently changed its position on the issue, arguing for it in the court pointing out that the anti-gay law in the country was archaic and that Indian society has grown more tolerant towards homosexuality, the bad news is that the country is heading for general polls in a few months and a much embattled coalition government is striving hard to retain power. It is thus highly unlikely that gay rights will take center stage in Indian Parliament any time soon.

“Good news”? That does cross the line dividing news and commentary.

There is also a lack of balance. Time quotes the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, a “veteran LGBT activist” and other “[s]tunned LGBT activists”, but offers no voices in support of the decision, or an explanation of the legal principles offered by the court in its decision.

What then is going on in this story? Was there a breakdown in Time’s back office that permitted an ill-written story barely distinguishable from a press release making it through the editorial process?

It is not as if no voices in support of maintaining the law are present. When the Delhi court struck down the law in 2009, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian leaders held a joint press conference denouncing the decision. Times‘ argument that a general election campaign will see this issue disappear from the public eye due to its unpopularity implies politicians support keeping the law — and The Hindu reports some will even campaign on this point.

Is the attorney general correct in saying laws banning consensual same-sex carnal relations are un-Indian and merely a vestige of the Raj? Or does the near unanimous voice of opprobrium from India’s religions for homosexual acts and the political classes desire to campaign on this issue speak to an Indian cultural and religious aversion to gay sex?

Or, are we seeing the “new normal” of reporting on social issues? As my colleagues at Get Religion have shown, balance is not a requirement for many mainstream media outlets when reporting on social issues. Bill Keller of the New York Times has stated his paper strives to be impartial when covering politics, but does not feel this same need when reporting on social issues. As TMatt has wrote at Get Religion, Keller believes that:

When covering debates on politics, it’s crucial for Times journalists to be balanced and fair to stakeholders on both sides. But when it comes to matters of moral and social issues, Bill Keller argues that it’s only natural for scribes in the world’s most powerful newsroom to view events through what he considers a liberal, intellectual and tolerant lens.

There is nothing really new in Keller’s worldview. Sixty three years ago Lionel Trilling wrote in the preface to The Liberal Imagination “It is one of the tendencies of liberalism to simplify.”

In the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition. For it is the plain fact that nowadays there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation. This does not mean, of course, that there is no impulse to conservatism or to reaction. Such impulses are certainly very strong, perhaps even stronger than most of us know. But the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.

The state of American intellectual life has changed little, and I fear it has worsened. Trilling believed there should be an interplay of ideas between left and right for “it is not conducive to the real strength of liberalism that it should occupy the intellectual field alone.”

Citing John Stuart Mill’s essay on Coleridge, Trilling wrote:

Mill, at odds with Coleridge all down the intellectual and political line [wrote Trilling], nevertheless urged all liberals to become acquainted with this powerful conservative mind. He said that the power of every true partisan of liberalism should be, “Lord, enlighten thou our enemies… ; sharpen their wits, give acuteness to their perceptions and consecutiveness and clearness to their reasoning powers. We are in danger from their folly, not from their wisdom: their weakness is what fills us with apprehension, not their strength.”…What Mill meant, of course, was that the intellectual pressure which an opponent like Coleridge could exert would force liberals to examine their position for its weaknesses and complacencies.

Time’s report on the court battle in India over Section 377 reflects the complacency that Trilling fought so hard, unsuccessfully, to halt in American letters. By not engaging with ideas uncongenial to its own thinking Time has become sloppy, stale and predictable — all but valueless as reporting and rather tepid, even insipid, as polemic.

Please hear what I am saying in this post — I am not discussing the merits of the court decision, but Time magazine’s reporting on the court decision. As journalism this story fails the test — unbalanced, excessive adjectives and adverbs, open support of one side of an argument, short of key facts, lacking context, and stylistically flat.

Now if the story had been presented as “liberal outrage over Indian court decision” essay or news analysis piece, my criticisms would not be as sharp. However, Time has packaged this story as a news piece. Sunk in their complacencies, Time and many other media outlets are small-minded and provincial. They serve as exemplars of the mindset ascribed to the late New Yorker movie critic Pauline Kael: “I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.”

First printed in Get Religion.

No right to ordination for gay man, Human Rights Tribunal rules: Anglican Ink, October 19, 2013 October 19, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Anglican Ink, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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The New Zealand Human Rights Review Tribunal has dismissed a complaint accusing the Bishop of Auckland of discrimination against homosexuals.

On 18 October 2013 the tribunal ruled the Bishop of Auckland, the Rt. Rev. Ross Bay, had not violated the country’s Human Rights laws by refusing to allow Eugene Sisneros to begin the ordination process on because he is in a same-sex partnership.

Mr. Sisneros, a lay employee of St. Matthews-in-the-City in Auckland, filed a complaint with the tribunal stating he “felt totally humiliated that I had spent six years of my life in study, for a process that I was not permitted to enter because I was a gay man and in a relationship,” adding “My humiliation and disappointment continue to this day.”\

Read it all at Anglican Ink.

The moral (and news) authority of Desmond Tutu: Get Religion, August 1, 2013 August 1, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism.
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An article at BBC.com on the launch of a United Nations-backed campaign to promote gay rights in South Africa is a perfect example of the kinds of difficulties that mainstream journalists face when reporting on world figures who have left the public eye.

The name and the work of retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu is known to most educated newspaper readers — but is a reputation built 25 years ago in the anti-apartheid struggle transferable to the modern debate on gay rights? Why should reporters automatically assume that the words of Tutu are major news?

Like Cher, Desmond Tutu has been on a never ending farewell tour. The ebullient archbishop will announce he is withdrawing from public life and then pop up again in conjunction with another cause or campaign. On 26 July the BBC ran a story under the catchy headline “Archbishop Tutu ‘would not worship a homophobic God.’” The article begins:

South Africa’s Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu says he will never worship a “homophobic God” and will rather go to hell. The retired archbishop was speaking at the launch of a UN-backed campaign in South Africa to promote gay rights. Despite same-sex relationships being legal in South Africa, it had some of the worst cases of homophobic violence, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said.

Archbishop Tutu, 81, is a long-standing campaigner for gay rights. He retired as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996, but has remained the moral conscience of the nation, correspondents say.

While it is tempting to focus on the first line of the story in this post, to do so would breach the parameters of this blog by discussing a religious and cultural issue, not journalism. Thus, my focus is on the last line of the paragraph, the “moral conscience of the nation” line.

Should the BBC be making this claim, or is this editorial advocacy? Is the Corporation making a value judgment that equates a struggle over race and politics with a struggle over sex and politics?

Tutu’s role in the transformation of the South African state is part of the historical record, and is rightly honored for his work. Yet he is not universally beloved. The pull quotes from a story reporting on comments made during a campaign rally this week by Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe were unkind — and not unexpected.

“Never, never, never will we support homosexuality in Zimbabwe,” Mr Mugabe said. “Archbishop Tutu said it is nice to be gay, yet he has a wife, he should have begun by getting himself a man for a woman.

“When you are a bishop and cannot interpret the Bible, you should resign and give it to those who can. We will not compromise our tradition and tolerate homosexuality.”

For many years Mugabe has played upon the religio-cultural disapprobation of homosexuality in Zimbaber for political gain. It may be an act — a way of demonizing or scapegoating an unfavored minority to distract the people from the woes of the country. Sources in Zimbabwe, however, tell me that this is not feigned anger — he means what he says.

Being the object of Mugabe’s invective, however, is a badge of honor and would tend to boost Desmond Tutu’s credentials. Yet within the archbishop’s church his post-apartheid actions have made him yesterday’s man.

In 1998 I attended a meeting of the Anglican bishops of Africa held on the margins of the Lambeth Conference. What played out at this dinner was a contest for the unofficial leadership of Africa — who would be the paramount bishop. The new archbishop of Cape Town, a protege of Tutu — who had retired by this point — had his following. But the mantle of authority passed from South Africa to Nigeria. No votes were taken, nothing official occurred but at that dinner the Anglican churches of Africa moved on from apartheid. The culture wars and homosexuality took center stage.

One thing I took away from these encounters with African bishops was their visceral dislike of breaking ranks and of voicing public criticism of their own. As an American clergyman, I was used to one style of church warfare — Smite the Amalekites Oh Lord, smite them hip and thigh — not the African softly softly approach.

Thus when I saw this denunciation of Tutu by the Archbishop of Ghana following the publication of the BBC piece printed above, I was taken aback by its vehemence.

 

“Archbishop Tutu is respected in the Anglican Church and around the world but this time he has misfired and all Anglican Bishops from Africa, Asia and South America condemn his statement in no uncertain terms,” he told Adom News.

The Ghanaian archbishop goes on to say he believes Tutu’ is corrupt — and is now a moral authority for hire.

“We suspect that retired Archbishop Tutu may have collected some moneys from some of the western governments or from gay rights activists to do their bidding but the Anglican Church condemns gay practice,” he said.

This is all by way of background. Desmond Tutu has long been a vocal supporter of gay rights, and it is unlikely he has been swayed by American gold. The question I see is how to inject nuance into a story. Tutu may be a towering moral figure in the newsrooms of the West, but not in the African street or pew. I liken it to the reputation of Tony Blair — a prime minister beloved by American neoconservatives but despised by the British left. Should the BBC report on the launch of the Free & Equal campaign in Cape Town focused on Tutu or on the campaign? The quotes make for a fun story — but are they news?

Newspapers need shorthand ways of explaining issues in order to save space, to use code and symbols readers understand. But it is poor practice to allow historical analogies to frame issues as it distorts the past and does an injustice to the present. We see this sort of thing all the time — conflating the civil rights movement of the 60′s with the gay marriage debate of today, or the apartheid regime of South Africa with the modern state of Israel.

Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results, stockbrokers tell us. Should not newspapers do this too and inject context and nuance when discussing the contemporary comments of historical figures? Or is this asking too much? Did the BBC allow celebrity trump news? Did the BBC’s moral worldview, its conception of heroes and villains, prevent it from telling the true story? I think so.

First printed in Get Religion.

Tengatenga under fire for gay flip flop: The Church of England Newspaper, July 28, 2013, p 6. July 31, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Consultative Council, Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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James Tengatenga

The chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, has repudiated his opposition to same-sex marriage, telling an American college newspaper the Bible’s call to treat all people with respect outweighed its condemnation of homosexual acts as sin.

On 19 July 2013 The Dartmouth quoted Dr. Tengatenga as saying his views on homosexuality had evolved in recent years. “The interpretation of the Bible is not based on one person or one denomination,” the Dartmouth quoted him as saying.

“What is important is what the scriptures say about the value of a human being. It says they are all equal. One must place more value on this than on the few negative scriptures that are in the Bible,” the bishop said.

Last week The Church of England Newspaper reported Dr. Tengatenga had stood down as Bishop of Southern Malawi to take up the post of Dean of the William Jewett Tucker Foundation at Dartmouth College on 1 January 2014.  As dean, Dr. Tengatenga will oversee the college’s chaplaincy programs.

However gay activists at Dartmouth, joined by the college chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) denounced the bishop’s appointment. They cited statements made by Dr Tengatenga in support of the church’s traditional teaching on sexuality published in The Church of England Newspaper in objecting to his appointment.

Members of the Dartmouth search committee told the college newspaper Dr. Tengatenga did not believe the things that he said but was merely mouthing the sentiments of the Church of the Province of Central Africa.  Search Committee chairman Professor Irene Kacandes said the bishop’s statements had been taken out of context and expressed his church’s views, not his personal beliefs.

However, the bishop’s climb down may have come too late for some members of Dartmouth’s faculty. Adrienne Clay, African and African-American studies department program coordinator told The Dartmouth,“Although Tengatenga’s new statement strikes some encouraging notes, it seems very polished and a little too ambiguous for my taste.”

“How do we measure Tengatenga? By a statement directed to a college audience in the U.S. or by his words and actions, as well as inaction, over the past decade?”, she said.

Dr. Tengatenga did not respond to a request for clarification of his views. However the Anglican Consultative Council’s press office last week said the bishop was under no obligation to step down as ACC chairman following his resignation as Bishop of Southern Malawi.

RNS cheerleading for gay marriage: Get Religion, July 21, 2013 July 21, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage, Politics, Press criticism.
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A poor outing from Religion News Service this week in its article about the passage of the British government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. While it is a wire service story and cannot be held to the same standards of depth of reporting as a story prepared in house by a newspaper, it nonetheless should strive for accuracy and provide context — and refrain from cheer leading in support of one side of the story.

The version that appeared in the Washington Post under the title “Queen approves same-sex marriage bill in England, Wales” appears to be in trouble from the start. The Queen in the person of Elizabeth did not approve the bill — the Crown or the Sovereign did. This is a small thing, but it signals the direction of the story. It begins:

England and Wales became the 16th and 17th countries in the world to recognize gay marriage after Queen Elizabeth II gave “royal assent” to a same-sex marriage bill. Under the new law, gay men and women will be able to join together in civil ceremonies or in church services — although no religious denomination will be forced to carry out such services.

The article walks back the headline, but what does RNS mean by saying England and Wales are two countries? Is this an eruption of Welsh nationalism on the part of RNS? Parliament in Westminster passed the bill — not the Welsh Assembly. While Wales has a cultural and linguistic identity and a devolved legislature that addresses some issues, it is not a country.

The article continues by quoting the government minister responsible for shepherding the bill through Parliament and her political allies. It then states:

The bill’s passage saw many angry exchanges. It had the full support of Prime Minister David Cameron, despite the consternation of many in his own Conservative Party. The leaders of two other main parties, the Liberal Democrats and New Labour, also backed it. But some political commentators predict Cameron’s gay-friendly attitudes will cost him at the next election in 2015.

Without seeking comments from opponents of the bill the article then moves to a negative response from the Catholic Church — glossing over the fact that a majority of Conservative MPs voted against the bill. The facile  comment about “gay-friendly attitudes” distorts the political facts. It fails to identify who believes the Conservatives will take a drubbing at the next election nor does it say why — other than alluding to hostility to homosexuals. The Coalition for Marriage — one group that fought the bill predicts Cameron will pay a political price for pushing gay marriage — but it is not likely to recognize its views being presented by this article.

The Telegraph and BBC were able to find political opponents of the bill — not just religious ones — to speak out. Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth was cited by the BBC as having told Parliament it was “astonishing that a bill for which there is absolutely no mandate, against which a majority of Conservatives voted, has been bulldozed through both Houses”.

Its all there in Hansard for anyone to find — even his warning to the prime minister over his political folly. “I think the government should think very carefully in future if they want the support of these benches. Offending large swathes of the Conservative Party is not a good way of going about it.”

The RNS article also offers this:

But to the delight — and relief — of most people in the United Kingdom, the bill was passed by landslide votes in both houses of Parliament.

How does RNS know this? It could perhaps have made reference to polling data, but does not. The “delight” and “relief” quip appears to speak to RNS’s views — not the facts.

Little things are missing from the story — for example, when will the first gay weddings take place? (Answer: next Spring). The article tells us the Church of England does not permit same-sex weddings and the Roman Catholic Church is opposed — but are there faiths or denominations that support gay marriage? (Answer: Yes. Unitarians,  Quakers, Liberal Judaism, and some liberal Protestant groups). Are they banned too from offering church or synagogue weddings? No. They may opt in and offer gay weddings.

In sum, this article fails to present both sides of the story, contains inaccuracies and exaggerations, lacks context and important facts and engages in cheer leading in favor of gay marriage — confusing its own views with what it imagines to be popular sentiment. This is junk journalism.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

First printed in GetReligion.

Cardinal backs gay civil unions over Vatican objections: The Church of England Newspaper, June 23, 2013, p 7. June 27, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage, Roman Catholic Church.
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Cardinal Godfried Danneels

Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, has broken ranks with the Vatican and given his support to legislation to create same sex unions.

In an interview with the Belgian newspaper Le Soir published on 4 June 2013 the cardinal said the Catholic Church “has never opposed the fact that there should exist a sort of ‘marriage’ between homosexuals, but one therefore speaks of a ‘sort of’ marriage, not of true marriage between a man and a woman, therefore another word must be found for the dictionary.”

“About the fact that this should be legal, that it should be made legitimate through a law, about this the Church has nothing to say,” the cardinal said.

A leader of the liberal wing of the Catholic Church in Europe, Cardinal Danneels was touted in the press as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II. His remarks follow similar comments made in recent months by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, archbishop of Bogotà – who retracted his statement last November.

On 3 June 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) released a statement entitled: “Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons”.

“The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions,” the statement said, released under the signature of then Cardinal Josef Ratzinger and given the imprimatur of Pope John Paul II.

The CDF held: “The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity.”

Cardinal Danneels’s comments follow a statement last month by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference in opposition to civil unions in Italy, “The family cannot be humiliated and weakened by similar representations that in a stealthy way constitute a progressive ‘vulnus’ on its specific identity, and that are not necessary to safeguard individual rights that to a large extent are already guaranteed by the law,” he said.

Pope Francis has yet to speak on the issue of civil unions in Italy or gay will marriage in England or France.

The Age gives ex-gay ministries a fair hearing: Get Religion, June 24, 2013 June 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism.
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There was a man bites dog story in the Australian press that caught my eye this week. It was not this story from the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Man bites dog, goes to hospital” but an article in The Age reporting on reactions to the closure of the US-based ministry Exodus International.

The cynic in me was not expecting much from an article entitled “‘Gay cure‘ therapy will continue”. As my colleagues at GetReligion have pointed out the media has not distinguish itself in its reporting on the Exodus International story. Yet The Age published a story sympathetic to the ex-gay ministries movement and, dare I say it, was perhaps unbalanced in their favor?

Under a photo of the silhouette of two men kissing behind a rainbow flag, the story begins:

Australian religious organisations will continue using homosexual reorientation therapy, despite the closure of a leading US proponent, Exodus International, which has apologised for the “pain and hurt” it caused.

Surprise one — a non-pejorative description “reorientation therapy.” Surprise two follows — a ministry spokesman describes what they do and don’t do.

The Reverend Ron Brookman, the Australian director of Living Waters Ministries and a member of Exodus Global, said the organization had acknowledged damage caused by treating homosexuality as something that could be “cured”.  ”We don’t like to call it healing, we call it transformation,” he said. “I minister to a lot of people struggling with same-sex attraction who never budge but we don’t condemn them, we don’t shame them. We stand with them and support them.”

A third surprise follows — The Age gives space to critics of Alan Chambers.

 

Exodus International dissolved last week with its president, Alan Chambers, issuing an apology for the “pain and hurt” caused. The 37-year-old acknowledges he still has homosexual urges.

Peter Stokes, chief executive of Christian ethics group Salt Shakers, said Chambers was “off the planet”. “Alan Chambers has said I have tried this and failed, therefore it’s not possible for anybody else to come out of homosexuality,” he said. “It’s a bit like a drug addict saying I tried to stop and I couldn’t do it so nobody else can do it.”

He accused Mr Chambers of undermining Christian values. “It’s very sad to see a good organisation being ripped apart by one individual,” he said. “This organisation has helped many people over the years.”

There are no contrary voices denouncing reorientation therapy or lauding Alan Chambers decision to close down his ministry. In that sense the article is unbalanced and incomplete. Were this only story out there I would question its value. However, the reporting I have seen so far on this issue ignores or denigrates the views presented in this piece.

That makes this story unique. It allows spokesmen for Christian ministries who seek to transform those who wish to leave a homosexual lifestyle to speak without a censure or ridicule — they can recognize their point of view in this newspaper story. That is good journalism.

First printed in Get Religion.

A Vatican Gay lobby or a gay Lobby? : Get Religion, June 20, 2013 June 20, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism, Roman Catholic Church.
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Where should the stress be placed in Pope Francis’ phrase the “gay lobby”? Upon the first word “gay” or the second, “lobby”?

This semantic game animated my discussion this week with Todd Wilken, the host of Lutheran Public Radio’s Issues, Etc. program.  In our conversation broadcast on 18 June 2013, Todd and I contrasted The New York Times coverage of Pope Francis’s comments that a gay lobby existed at the Vatican to the coverage in the European and religion press.

Todd began to show by asking if this was new news? I was polite and responded that this is only 100 years or so old,  which I admit was a misstatement on my part. But it would’ve been bad form to quote Pope Pius V on a Lutheran program.

In his Constitution Horrendum illud scelus of 30  August 1568, Pius stated:

In his That horrible crime, on account of which corrupt and obscene cities were destroyed by fire through divine condemnation, causes us most bitter sorrow and shocks our mind, impelling us to repress such a crime with the greatest possible zeal.

Quite opportunely the Fifth Lateran Council [1512-1517] issued this decree: “Let any member of the clergy caught in that vice against nature, given that the wrath of God falls over the sons of perfidy, be removed from the clerical order or forced to do penance in a monastery” (chap. 4, X, V, 31).

So that the contagion of such a grave offense may not advance with greater audacity by taking advantage of impunity, which is the greatest incitement to sin, and so as to more severely punish the clerics who are guilty of this nefarious crime and who are not frightened by the death of their souls, we determine that they should be handed over to the severity of the secular authority, which enforces civil law.

Therefore, wishing to pursue with greater rigor than we have exerted since the beginning of our pontificate, we establish that any priest or member of the clergy, either secular or regular, who commits such an execrable crime, by force of the present law be deprived of every clerical privilege, of every post, dignity and ecclesiastical benefit, and having been degraded by an ecclesiastical judge, let him be immediately delivered to the secular authority to be put to death, as mandated by law as the fitting punishment for laymen who have sunk into this abyss.

Pius did not mince words.

One can say that this is not new news, but Pope Francis’ discussion of the problem was new. But should the news reports stress the homosexuality angle or the clique? The New York Times emphasized the gay in their report unlike the European press which focused on the lobby. Is this the difference without significance? I would say no.

Had this been the first instance accusations have been raised about gay clique at the heart of the Catholic Church then the emphasis would best be placed on what members of the clique had in common. But as this is not new — apart from the Pope’s admission to the existence of such a problem — the better story is a discussion of the clique.

We need to step back however and recognize the “gay lobby” phrase is not a quote but a third-party summation of Francis’s words. In Spanish and later in the Italian reports the word translated into English as lobby has connotations of a Mafia or a cabal — not merely a political a pressure group. The European reporting highlighted the problem of priests having a higher loyalty to members of this Mafia then to their ecclesiastical superiors or to the discipline of the church.

While sex is always a good story — and homosexuality is a meme the New York Times cannot do without — the deeper story is the cleansing of the Curia of an old boys network.This story focuses on the gay old boys network, but there are other networks in the Curia who have stymied reform. And in this area, I told Todd it was my belief that the agenda of Popes Benedict and Francis are almost identical — Francis is not the anti-Benedict beloved of op-ed writers on this side of the Atlantic.

Well, that is what I wanted to say anyway. Listen and tell me what you think.

First printed at Get Religion.

Boy Scouts of America end gay scout ban: The Church of England Newspaper, June 2, 2013, p 7. June 12, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, The Episcopal Church.
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The national council of the Boy Scouts of America has voted to permit scout troops to enroll gay members, but has upheld a ban on homosexual scout masters.

On 23 May 2013, the 1400 delegates to the BSA’s national council meeting in Grapevine, Texas voted by a margin of 61 per cent to 39 per cent to rescind its ban and allow a local option on gay scouts.

“This has been a challenging chapter in our history,” the BSA chief executive, Wayne Brock, said after the vote. “While people have differing opinions on this policy, kids are better off when they’re in Scouting.”

Thursday’s vote was presented as a compromise between the existing policy and calls by gay activists to end the ban on gay boys and adults.  After the vote the BSA released a statement saying it did not condone any sexual activity by scouts and did not want to be drawn into the political battle over homosexuality. “The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive and unresolved societal issue,” it said in a statement.

America’s churches, which sponsor over 70 per cent of scout troops were divided over the vote. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints said it had supported the change but the Southern Baptist Convention said it was opposed.

“We are deeply saddened,” said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee. “Homosexual behavior is incompatible with the principles enshrined in the Scout oath and Scout law.”

On 27 March 2013 the Most Rev, Robert Duncan, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America wrote to the chief scout executive and national president of the BSA voicing opposition to the proposed change.

“In consideration of the proposed membership policy change allowing sponsors of scouting units to determine their own membership guidelines with regard to sexual orientation, please know that the policy of the Anglican Church in North America does not support homosexual activity. Consequently, we would not support this change in our scouting troops,” Archbishop Duncan said.

Writing in the Washington Post’s On Faith section last week the Rev. Susan Russell urged change. “It is time to refuse to allow what is best about Scouting to be held hostage by homophobia. It is time to stop being blackmailed into bigotry by the increasingly strident voices from the fringe who insist that continued discrimination is their price tag for participation. It is time for equality.”

The prominent Episcopal Church gay activist noted the Episcopal Church supported lifting the ban. “We have been having this discussion for a very long time. Over a decade ago at its 2000 General Convention, the Episcopal Church adopted a resolution to ‘Encourage the Boy Scouts of America to allow membership to youth and adult leaders irrespective of their sexual orientation’.”

Interview: Issues, Etc: May 24, 2013 May 26, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Interviews/Citations, Issues Etc, Presbyterian/Church of Scotland.
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Here is an to an interview I gave to the Issues, Etc. show of Lutheran Public Radio broadcast on 24 May 2013

Podcast: Download (Duration: 14:22 — 5.9MB)

2. Media Coverage of the Church of Scotland Decision on Gay Clergy & Catholic Youth in France – George Conger, 5/24/13

Bishops denounce Obama blackmail over gay rights: Anglican Ink. April 27, 2013 April 27, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Church of the Province of the West Indies, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage, Politics.
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The Anglican bishops of the West Indies have urged their governments to hold fast and resist pressure from Britain and the United States to legalize gay rights and gay marriage.

In a statement released on 25 April 2013 following the House of Bishops meeting in Barbados, bishops of the Church the Province of the West Indies (CPWI) reiterated their belief in marriage “defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman.”

“The idea of such unions being constituted by persons of the same sex is, therefore, totally unacceptable on theological and cultural grounds,” the bishops said. The CPWI consists of eight dioceses: the Diocese of Barbados, the Diocese of Belize, the Diocese of Guyana, the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, the Diocese of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Diocese of the North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba, the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago and the Diocese of the Windward Islands.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Hong Kong push for gay civil rights: The Church of England Newspaper, April 14, 2013 p 7. April 13, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage.
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Church leaders in Hong Kong have welcomed the proposal for public consultations on a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance (SODO) that would protect the civil rights of the homosexual community. While declining to speak to the merits of any particular bill, Roman Catholic and Anglican leaders have voiced their general approval of civil rights legislation.

On 1 April 2013 Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, a leading Anglican layman and the former secretary for food and health, took office as chairman of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunity Commission.

Last month gay activists attacked the appointment of Dr. Chow arguing that his religious principle would prejudice the debate. However Dr. Chow told the South China Morning Post he was a “liberal-minded” Christian and not prejudiced against gay people.

The issue should be handled discreetly. “In the process of legislation, there should be more discussion. Because not everyone would be courageous enough or would choose to disclose their own sexual orientation,” Dr. Chow told Radio Television Hong Kong.

“My religious background is relatively conservative, but even the Anglican Church in England is discussing this issue now,” he said adding that “regardless of what my religious background is or my personal view… these people should not be discriminated against.”

In November 2012 a proposal was put forward in the Legislative Council to launch a public consultation to gauge potential support for SODO. After vigorous debate the motion was defeated and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying dismissed calls for a consultation in a policy address in January.

Evangelical leaders had voiced concern that SODO would lead to gay marriage. Choi Chi-sum, secretary-general of the Society for Truth and Light, said they were “disappointed” that Dr. Chow had now offered his public support for the ordinance before consulting groups who opposed the legislation.

Created in 1996 the equal opportunities commission has a mandate to work towards the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, pregnancy, disability, family status and race. This brief should be extended to sexual orientation Dr. Chow said.

Global Lutheran schism over homosexuality: The Church of England Newspaper, February 17, 2013 p 7. February 22, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden, Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) has broken with the Church of Sweden, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and all “churches who have openly accepted same-sex marriage.”

The split between one of the largest African members of the Lutheran World Federation mirrors and liberal American and European churches mirrors the disputes in the Anglican Communion over doctrine and church discipline.

The General Assembly of the Mekane Yesus (Place of Jesus) Church, meeting in Addis Ababa from 27 Jan to 2 Feb, ratified a July 2012 decision by its church council to end Eucharistic fellowship with the two leading liberal members of the World Lutheran Fellowship over their decision to allow gay clergy and same-sex blessings.

“The ELCA is very saddened by this decision,” said the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for ELCA Global Mission, noting the American Lutheran church had been “walking with the people of Ethiopia for more than 50 years, and our sister church, the Church of Sweden, for more than 150 years.”

While the Mekane Yesus Church is “closing the door to this partnership,” Mr. Malpica Padilla said the ELCA and the Church of Sweden “are not locking the doors from our side. It is open for when you decide it is time to resume this journey together. It is my hope that in the near future, we will again walk together in Christian love.”

In his address to January synod meeting, the president of the EECMY, the Rev. Wakseyoum Idosa said the EECMY “had lived in partnership with some partners for over a century.”

“Challenges and changes that we encounter in out contexts are forcing us to make decisions which are consistent with our belief about God and our biblical, theological and ethical understandings and our contexts where the church operates. One of these challenges as you all know is the controversial issue on human sexuality which has been on the agenda of the EECMY since 2006.”

The EECMY had issued a “clear statement on the position of the church on this issue” in 2010, President Idosa said, and the Council of the Church at its July meeting determined to take action to break with the Church of Sweden and the ELCA.

“The decision of the Council that has been endorsed by the General Assembly will be communicated to the concerned churches on the basis of the bilateral relations that exist between the church and concerned partners,” he said.

Founded by Lutheran missionaries in the 19th century, the Mekane Yesus church has experienced rapid growth over the past forty years. President Idosa told the General Assembly over the past three years the church had added one million members, and at year’s end counted 6,012,184 members and 7,840 congregations.

No sex please, we’re Catholic: Get Religion, January 30, 2013 January 30, 2013

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The perils of re-writing another news outlet’s work were on full display this week in an article that appeared in the New York Daily News. Based upon a news story broadcast by Buffalo’s WGRZ-TV,Call him ‘The God Father’: Husband and dad will become Roman Catholic priest — and take vow of celibacy” reports that a former Episcopal priest who upon his re-ordination as a Catholic priest will begin a “sex-free life”, is filled with errors of fact and false assumptions about sacerdotal celibacy.

It is not clear at what point the errors entered into the food chain. Perhaps the subject of the story John Cornelius misspoke; perhaps WGRZ-TV misstated the quotes — or it may have be the fault of the Daily News. Whatever the reason, the only trustworthy fact that I would take away from this story is that former Episcopal priest John Cornelius will be re-ordained as a Roman Catholic priest on 26 Jan 2013. Beware of everything else.

Let’s start with the lede.

John Cornelius will be ordained a Roman Catholic priest this weekend — and with the blessing of his wife they’re giving up their sex life. Cornelius, a father of three, will become the first married Roman Catholic priest in New York — and Sharyl, his wife of 33-years, has agreed to the whole celibacy thing. “We have decided to do that voluntarily,” Cornelius told WGRZ-TV. “I have always had friends that are Roman Catholic priests and I appreciate what they’ve given up to serve God and the priesthood.”

The story continues:

Cornelius, 64, is a former Episcopalian priest who converted three years ago to Catholicism. He said his old church had gotten too liberal for him. “There was the ordination of the homosexual priest in New England,” he said. “Then it came time for women’s ordination. … It may have been okay for other people, but it was just too much for me.”The article reports Fr. Cornelius retired as an Episcopal priest in 2010 and “jumped at the chance after Pope Benedict issued a directive last year aimed at filling the depleted Catholic ranks with converted Episcopalian priests.”

It closes with the news that Fr. Cornelius will serve a “flock of other former Episcopalians at the Fellowship of Saint Alban” outside Rochester and speaks briefly of his faith journey. Let’s pick the low hanging fruit first and work towards the conceptual failures in this story. The chronology offered in the quote by Fr. Cornelius is incorrect.

Women priests were authorized in 1976 by the Episcopal Church (though a group had been illicitly ordained earlier). Non-closeted, non-celibate gay/lesbian clergy were first ordained in 1979 in New York city and by the early ’90s a number of dioceses were ordaining gay clergy. And the first “gay” Episcopal bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, was consecrated in New Hampshire in 2003. The chronology offered by Fr Cornelius is incorrect. And the suggestion that the Catholic Church is free from the controversies surrounding gay or women clergy is not so straight forward.

And no, John Cornelius will not be the first married RC priest in New York. That honor belongs to Fr. Scott Caton of the Diocese of Rochester who was ordained under the 1980 Pastoral Provision. Fr. Cornelius may be the first priest ordained in New York state for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.

What is the difference between the pastoral provision and the ordinariate? The first has been around since 1980 and permits certain Protestant clergy who are married to be re-ordained as Catholic clergy. The second was created in 2011 as a home for Anglican communities (clergy and laity) who wish to seek full corporate unity with the Catholic church while retaining some Anglican liturgical forms and their own ecclesial structures.  The article does not do justice to these distinctions.

And, is it fair to say the re-ordination of ex-Episcopalians and Lutherans is a tool to fill the “depleted” ranks of the Catholic clergy?

And, is it fair  to say that by “giving up their sex life” Fr. Cornelius and his wife have “agreed to the whole celibacy thing”? Can abstinence from sexual relations with a spouse be considered celibacy — as understood by the Catholic Church? Is a “sex-free life” the definition of sacerdotal celibacy? Or is there a bit more to it than that?

The New Advent dictionary begins its definition of celibacy by writing:

Celibacy is the renunciation of marriage implicitly or explicitly made, for the more perfect observance of chastity, by all those who receive the Sacrament of Orders in any of the higher grades.

Are Fr. Cornelius and his wife practicing celibacy, abstinence or chastity? No questions are asked by the article about clerical celibacy, nor are comments or observations made by knowledgeable sources — a bishop, theologian, church spokesman, et al. Is this the norm for re-ordained Episcopal clergy? Is this renunciation of the marital state a spiritual discipline, a physical separation — what is going on here?

I don’t know. Do you?

African outrage over civil partnership decision: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013 p 7. January 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Howls of outrage and disbelief from the Anglican Churches of Africa and Asia have greeted last month’s decision by the House of Bishops to end the ban on clergy in gay civil partnerships from being appointed to the episcopate.

Archbishops representing a majority of the active members of the Anglican Communion have urged the Church of England to pull back, saying the bishops’ decision violates international Anglican accords, creates moral confusion over church doctrine and discipline, holds the church up to ridicule, and will provide Islamist extremists a further excuse to persecute Christian minorities.

The 12 Jan 2013 statement by the nine primates of the Global South Coalition follows critical responses from the Archbishops of Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.  Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria said the bishops of his church had agreed to break with the Church of England should the English bishops’ decision be implemented.

“Sadly we must also declare that if the Church of England continues in this contrary direction we must further separate ourselves from it and we are prepared to take the same actions as those prompted by the decisions of The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada ten years ago.”

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda said the decision “to allow clergy in civil partnerships to be eligible to become Bishops is really no different from allowing gay Bishops.  This decision violates our Biblical faith and agreements within the Anglican Communion.”

The decision to permit partnered gay clergy to serve as bishops “only makes the brokenness of the Communion worse and is particularly disheartening coming from the Mother Church,” he argued.

The Archbishop of Kenya, Dr. Eliud Wabukala concurred, saying the announcement “will create further confusion about Anglican moral teaching and make restoring unity to the Communion an even greater challenge.”

The “proviso” that clergy in civil partnerships remain celibate is “clearly unworkable. It is common knowledge that active homosexuality on the part of Church of England clergy is invariably overlooked and in such circumstances it is very difficult to imagine anyone being brought to book,” the archbishop said on 6 Jan.

However, “the heart of the matter is not enforceability, but that bishops have a particular responsibility to be examples of godly living,” he argued.   “It cannot be right that they are able to enter into legally recognised relationships which institutionalise and condone behaviour that is completely contrary to the clear and historic teaching of Scripture” and the teaching of the church.

“The weight of this moral teaching cannot be supported by a flimsy proviso,” Archbishop Wabukala said.

African objections were not to the appointment to the episcopate of men who had a same-sex sexual orientation, but to those clergy who had contracted a gay civil partnership being appointed to the episcopate. The proviso that such relationships were celibate only when they involved the clergy of the Church of England was preposterous, one African bishop explained.

The Global South archbishops added this decision was “wrong” and had been “taken without prior consultation or consensus with the rest of the Anglican Communion at a time when the Communion is still facing major challenges of disunity.”

“The Church, more than any time before, needs to stand firm for the faith once received from Jesus Christ through the Apostles and not yield to the pressures of the society,” the archbishops said.

Evangelical backlash follows England’s decision to allow “gay” bishops: Anglican Ink, January 7, 2012 January 8, 2013

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Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda

Conservative Evangelical leaders have charged the Church of England’s House of Bishops with hypocrisy, denouncing the 20 Dec 2012 announcement that gay clergy in civil partnerships, who remain celibate, may be appointed as bishops.

“A bishop known to be in a civil partnership could hardly be a focus of unity nor be a bishop for the whole church,” the leaders of Anglican Mainstream said over the weekend, while the Archbishops of Uganda and Kenya have warned that appointment of a partnered gay bishop would be a grievous blow to the wider Anglican Communion.

“Our grief and sense of betrayal are beyond words,” Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda said on 7 January 2013.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

The Magic Circle and the Soho masses: Get Religion, January 3, 2013 January 3, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ordinariate, Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Roman Catholic Church.
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The line between criticism and carping is not always clear. A story may appear to be well written, well sourced, balanced and complete to a casual reader. The same story, however, may appear naive, incomplete or wrongheaded to someone who has knowledge or opinions on the issues.

An article in today’s Guardian entitled “Gay mass services in Soho abolished by archbishop of Westminster” illustrates this problem. Taken on its own terms, this article is very good. However, to those who have been following the Soho masses controversy in the Catholic Church in England, this story prompts a “yes, but …” reaction, as it is written in the belief that the Roman Catholic Church is a unitary structure with a common doctrine.

While that may be true on paper, that is far from true in practice. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (BCEW) does not and has not shared the same views on social and moral issues as Pope’s John Paul II and Benedict XVI. For those unencumbered with a knowledge of English ecclesiastical intrigue, the Catholic Church may appear a monolith — it isn’t. But is it fair to critique an article in a general interest newspaper for not telling the story to the satisfaction of those in the know?

The lede to this story begins:

The Archbishop of Westminster, head of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, has ordered that special fortnightly “Soho masses” for gay and lesbian churchgoers in central London are not appropriate and are to be axed.

The services, intended to be particularly welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, had been held at Our Lady of the Assumption church in the West End for six years with the blessing of senior clergy but had attracted criticism from traditionalists.

The story then moves to analysis, noting this will be seen as a victory for “traditionalists” within the church. And the curtailment of the Soho masses comes as the church battles the coalition government over its plans to introduce gay marriage in England and Wales.

The article gives a clear summary of the announcement made by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, reporting “the archbishop is said to believe that the pastoral care of the lesbian and gay church community should now be uncoupled from the sacrament of Mass, and that the [gay] community should not be singled out to have ‘special’ masses.”

The Catholic Church will continue to offer “pastoral care” to gays and lesbians “on Sunday evenings at Farm Street Church of the Immaculate Conception in Mayfair.” And in an interesting twist, the church that hosted the Soho masses will be turned over to the use of the “Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the body set up by Rome to cater for those who have defected from the Church of England to the Catholic church.”

The article notes the existence of the Soho masses had angered traditionalists who saw the services as a challenge to the church’s teaching on human sexuality, and then cites extracts from the archbishop’s letter that re-iterates the church’s teaching on these issues. The story closes with quotes from two conservative Catholic critics of the Soho masses, who welcome the news.

For the Guardian, this was a remarkably neutral report — that shaded towards the conservative side. No liberal voices appeared in the story attacking the church for homophobia or insensitivity to counter the two conservative voices. The article was also framed in a neutral tone, not picking sides — reporting the facts of the archbishop’s letter without comment.

Save for the absence of a liberal response, on its face this article passed the test of sound journalism — and as the story was framed about the announcement and not the reaction, the absence of contrary voices was not fatal. It allows the Guardian to come back to the issue with a second day story.

Yet, I was struck by the absence of a paragraph or clause that reported the end of the Soho masses was an about face for the archbishop. The article notes this was a victory for traditionalists, but does not go on to say that hardly any of the hierarchy are traditionalists — and that includes Archbishop Nichols.

The always readable, and quotable, Damian Thompson of the Daily Telegraph and Catholic Herald coined the phrase the “Magic Circle” to describe the liberal block that controls the hierarchy of the English Catholic Church. The Magic Circle (a wonderful phrase — if Thompson is not the author, he nonetheless has given it cachet) has safely ignored directives from Rome to conform its practices to Catholic teaching. The Catholic Herald reported in February 2012 Archbishop Nichols defended the Soho masses while the Catholic World Report had a 2011 story that noted the archbishop called for critics of the Soho masses to be silenced.

Now the archbishop has silenced the Soho masses. What happened to cause this extraordinary change? Is Archbishop Nichols shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here that the Soho masses convey false teachings on Catholic moral doctrine?

And, the site of the Soho masses will now be turned over the Anglican Ordinariate — again, extraordinary. The influx of conservative Angl0-Catholics into the Ordinariate has been fought by the Magic Circle through delay, obstruction and (I believe) a degree of venality. What has happened to produce the sea change in the CBEW?

While this article gives good treatment in 750 words to the Soho masses announcement, it does not go down deep into the story and answer the question “why”. Now, is this a problem? I would expect the Catholic Herald and other specialty publications to focus on the ecclesiastical and bureaucratic infighting that led to this announcement. But should the Guardian wade into these waters? What say you GetReligion readers? Is my critique justified or am I carping — asking that the Guardian to be something that it is not.

First printed in Get Religion.

Anglican-Orthodox relations near death, Moscow warns: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2012 p 6. December 7, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Russian Orthodox, Women Priests.
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Women bishops, gay marriage, and other innovations of doctrine and discipline will end meaningful Anglican-Orthodox relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations (DECR) has warned.

At a 26 Nov 2012 meeting in Moscow, Ambassador Tim Barrow and second secretary James Ford met with leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the official press statement “Metropolitan Hilarion greeted the Ambassador and shared his reminiscences of his student years in Oxford and his impressions of the recent visit to London where he attended celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Sourozh diocese.”

They also discussed the situation of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa, the role the Russian Orthodox and Polish Catholic Churches had played in reconciling the “peoples of Russia and Poland” and the state of “Orthodox-Anglican relations at present” – which the Moscow Patriarchate said were at a nadir.

On 13 Nov, Hilarion wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury-designate, Bishop Justin Welby, offering his greetings upon the Bishop of Durham’s appointment as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.  However, Hilarion said meaningful Orthodox-Anglican ecumenical dialogue had all but died, and it was the Anglicans who have killed it.

In a carefully worded letter, Hilarion stated Moscow expected Bishop Welby to discipline the liberal wing of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Welby had been “entrusted with the spiritual guidance of the entire Anglican Communion, a unique union of like-minded people, which, however diverse the forms of its existence in the world may be, needs one ‘steward of God’ the guardian of the faith and witness to the Truth.”

“Regrettably, the late 20th century and the beginning of the third millennium have brought tangible difficulties in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Churches of the Anglican Communion,” Hilarion said.

“The introduction female priesthood and now episcopate, the blessing of same-sex ‘unions’ and ‘marriages’, the ordination of homosexuals as pastors and bishops – all these innovations are seen by the Orthodox as deviations from the tradition of the Early Church, which increasingly estrange Anglicanism from the Orthodox Church and contribute to a further division of Christendom as a whole,” he wrote.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Gay therapy ban ruled unconstitutional: Anglican Ink, December 4, 2012 December 5, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Free Speech, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Gov. Jerry Brown

A Federal Court in California has issued an injunction blocking implementation of SB 1172 – a law which would prohibit licensed therapists from counseling minors who wish to change their sexual orientation.

In a decision hailed as a victory for religious liberty and free speech, on 4 Dec 2012, District Court Judge William Shubb held the law was unconstitutional.

“Because the court finds that SB 1172 is subject to strict scrutiny and is unlikely to satisfy this standard, the court finds that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims,” Judge Shubb held, “based upon “violations of their rights to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Whistling in the dark about Islam and reform: Get Religion, December 3, 2012 December 3, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Civil Rights, Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Islam, Press criticism.
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Has anyone seen a story in the U.S. press about the opening of France’s first gay-friendly mosque? I’ve not come across anything in the U.S. mainstream media so far, but the story has received a great deal of play from the European press.

Now the cynic in me would want to feign shock at the New York Times not having picked up this story as it deals with an issue dear to its heart. However, it is the foreign policy ramifications of this story that I thought would attract the attention of the U.S. media elite — for the underlying theme of this story has been the philosophical principle behind U.S. Middle East policy. All right-thinking people — government leaders, columnists, the professoriate — believe Islam can be reformed and its tenets brought in line with the Western liberal mind. I am surprised not to have seen America’s public intellectuals jump all over this story.

On Friday Le Monde published a tight, nicely written story entitled « Une “mosquée” ouverte aux homosexuels près de Paris ». Drawing from a Reuters wire service story and its own reporting, Le Monde reported that a gay French Muslim had opened a mosque in a borrowed room on the grounds of a Buddhist dojo outside Paris.

Reuters reported:

Europe’s first gay and lesbian-friendly mosque opens on Friday in an eastern Paris suburb, in a challenge to mainstream Islam’s long tradition of condemning same-sex relationships. The mosque, set up in a small room inside the house of a Buddhist monk, will welcome transgender and transsexual Muslims and seat men and women together, breaking with another custom where the sexes are normally segregated during prayer. Its founder, French-Algerian gay activist and practicing Muslim Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, will also encourage women to lead Friday prayers, smashing yet another taboo.

“It’s a radically inclusive mosque. A mosque where people can come as they are,” said Zahed, 35, whose prayer space will be the first in Europe to formally brand itself as a gay-friendly mosque, according to Muslim experts.

M. Zahed sounds like he has latent Episcopalian-syndrome and uses all the right sort of Christian left buzz words. The story offers a few more words of explanation from M. Zahed, negative reactions from French Muslim leaders and closes with comments from a French academic.

“The goal of these Muslims is to promote a form of Islam that is inclusive of progressive values,” said Florence Bergeaud-Blackler, an associate researcher at France’s Research and Studies Institute on the Arab and Muslim World. The push by gay Muslims for acceptance comes as a younger generation of Muslims is questioning some of the existing interpretations of the Koran as over-conservative. “Even though they are still a extreme minority, their views have a solid theological basis. So their message is not having an insignificant impact,” Bergeaud-Blackler said.

The Le Monde story goes a bit deeper. The comments from French Muslim leaders are much harsher than those reported by Reuters.

« Il y a des musulmans homosexuels, ça existe, mais ouvrir une mosquée, c’est une aberration, parce que la religion, c’est pas ça », estime Abdallah Zekri, président de l’Observatoire des actes islamophobes, sous l’autorité du Conseil français du culte musulman (CFCM).

Which I roughly translate as:

“There are Muslim homosexuals. They exist. But to open a mosque, that is an aberration because homosexuality is contrary to our religion,” said Abdallah Zekri, president of the Islamophobia (sorry AP but that’s what Le Monde calls it) Observer for the CFCM.

 Le Monde also has some choice quotes from M. Zahed as well.

« Les musulmans ne doivent pas se sentir honteux. L’homosexualité n’est condamnée nulle part, ni dans le Coran ni dans la sunna. Si le prophète Mahomet était vivant, il marierait des couples d’homosexuels. » Il rêve d’un islam « apaisé, réformé, inclusif », qui accepterait le blasphème car « la pensée critique est essentielle pour le développement spirituel ».

Which I understand to mean:

Muslims should not feel ashamed. Homosexuality is not condemned either in the Koran or in the Sunna. If the Prophet Muhammad were alive, he would marry of homosexual couples.” [Zahed] dreams of  “peaceful, reformed, inclusive” Islam which which accepts blasphemy as “critical thinking essential to its spiritual development.”

Le Monde frames the story in a sympathetic light to M. Zahed. He is the underdog seeking to reform an ossified, dyed in the wool religious establishment. The article offers both sides of the debate — M. Zahed’s beliefs and the institutional response. However, I am surprised this item has not received the New Yorker 10,000 word treatment. A Muslim who speaks like an Episcopalian I imagine would be catnip to the mainstream American media.

The Islam of M. Zahed is that of Presidents Bush and Obama. Government policy since 9/11 has been predicated on the belief that Islam is like Christianity or Judaism. Given enough time, money and jawboning, Islam can reform and accommodate itself within a secularist pluralist society.

Le Monde‘s article about M. Zahed and Islam is written from a Westernized Christian worldview. Change the location to Texas and Islam for Southern Baptists and you would have the exact same story — even down to the buzz words and phrases proffered by M. Zahed. How often is it repeated that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality?

However, Islam is fundamentally different from Judaism and Christianity and this difference is what makes it nearly impossible for Islam to reform. And, it is the consensus of Islamic scholars that Islam is in no need of reform. Writing in the Asia Times under the pen name Spengler, David P. Goldman’, stated:

Hebrew and Christian scripture claim to be the report of human encounters with God. After the Torah is read each Saturday in synagogues, the congregation intones that the text stems from “the mouth of God by the hand of Moses”, a leader whose flaws kept him from entering the Promised Land. The Jewish rabbis, moreover, postulated the existence of an unwritten Revelation whose interpretation permits considerable flexibility with the text. Christianity’s Gospels, by the same token, are the reports of human evangelists.

The Archangel Gabriel, by contrast, dictated the Koran to Mohammed, according to Islamic doctrine. That sets a dauntingly high threshold for textual critics. How does one criticize the word of God without rejecting its divine character? In that respect the Koran resembles the “Golden Tablets” of the Angel Moroni purported found by the Mormon leader Joseph Smith more than it does the Jewish or Christian bibles.

Now almost 10 years old, Spengler’s “You say you want a reformation?” remains fresh and his observations stand as a challenge to U.S. government policies that believe Islam can be transformed into another variety of American Protestantism.

Speaking at the U.N. in September, President Obama said of the Arab Spring:

“True democracy—real freedom—is hard work,” Mr. Obama said. “Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents. In hard economic times, countries must be tempted— may be tempted—to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.”

Can Islam, which allows for no distinction between church and state, reform? The academic cited in the Le Monde piece believes it can. France’s first gay mosque will be a symbol of the younger generation’s desire for an “Islam that is inclusive of progressive values,” she stated. A contrary voice speaking to Islam’s response to minority voices (past and present) would have been a welcome counterweight. And give pause to those expecting peace to break out all over the Muslim world.

First printed in Get Religion.

Missile from Moscow for Justin Welby: Anglican Ink, November 13, 2012 November 13, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Russian Orthodox, Women Priests.
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Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

Meaningful Orthodox-Anglican ecumenical dialogue has all but died, the Moscow Patriarchate has told the next Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – and it is the Anglicans who have killed it.

On 13 Nov 2012,Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk – the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Russian church – wrote to Bishop Welby extending Moscow’s greetings upon his appointment as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.

In a carefully worded letter, Hilarion stated Moscow expected Bishop Welby to discipline the liberal wing of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Welby had been “entrusted with the spiritual guidance of the entire Anglican Communion, a unique union of like-minded people, which, however diverse the forms of its existence in the world may be, needs one ‘steward of God’ the guardian of the faith and witness to the Truth.”

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Anglican Unscripted Episode 55, November 3, 2012 November 3, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Ordinariate, Anglican.TV, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, GAFCON, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage, Property Litigation, Virginia.
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Anglican Unscripted Hosts Kevin and George talk about Gafcon II and the need for a global Anglican Congress to protect the Communion. You will also learn about Rome’s desire to bring Protestants into the ever expanding Ordinariate. AU also asks you to pray for the victims of Hurricane Sandy and we bring you perspective from skyscraper based storm landfall.

Canon Ashey talks about the dummying down of Scripture and other news from ACC-15. Peter has the latest rumors about the Crown Nomination Committee and Allan Haley discusses the second state to refute the validity of the Dennis Canon. Comments to AnglicanUnscipted@gmail.com #AU54 Please Donate to http://www.anglican.tv/donate

Diocese of Edmonton endorses gay blessings: The Church of England Newspaper, October 21, 2012 p 7. October 25, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage.
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The Rt Rev Jane Alexander

The Diocese of Edmonton has endorsed gay blessings.  At a meeting of its diocesan synod on 13 October 2012 delegates to the Synod voted by strong majorities to accept resolution G-3 “Blessing Same-Gender Committed Unions”.  Introduced by the Dean of Edmonton the resolution asked  the “Synod request the Bishop to grant permission to any clergy who may wish to offer prayers of blessing for covenanted same-gender relationships.”

In her presidential address to the meeting, Bishop Jane Alexander urged members of the diocese to agree to disagree.  “Over the years the church has weathered some pretty divisive and combustible issues,” she noted, citing remarriage after divorce, slavery and the ordination of women.

The church had survived these fights, she asserted because Anglicans had been willing to engage in dialogue and remain united.  “Can we see each other as Christ sees us and resolve to be together, to talk together, to pray together?”

Edmonton becomes the seventh of Canada’s 30 dioceses to endorse gay blessings.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishop’s apologia for gay marriage released this week: The Church of England Newspaper, September 23, 2012, p 6. September 24, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, New Hampshire, The Episcopal Church.
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Scriptural condemnations of homosexuality are cultural constructs that are products of their time, not eternal truths the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire argues in a new book set for release on 18 Sept 2012.

Bishop Robinson made headlines in 2003 when he became the first openly non-celibate gay clergyman consecrated as a bishop in the Anglican Communion. At his diocesan convention last year, he announced he would step down from office at the end of January, 2013.

In his book God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage (Alfred A. Knopf, $24) Bishop Robinson discussed his views on same-sex marriage and cited his own domestic arrangements in support of changing church teachings on marriage.  When he met his partner, Mark, “for the first time, I was able to express my love for someone through my body. … I experienced a wholeness and integration between body and spirit I had only dreamed about. I remember thinking, ‘So this is what all the fuss is about! No wonder people like — and hallow — this!’” he wrote.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Gay marriage a greater moral threat than terrorism, bishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, August 5, 2012 p 6. August 13, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Kenya, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Terrorism.
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The Anglican Bishop of Mombasa has come under sharp criticism for saying the moral threat to society posed by gay marriage was of greater long term consequence to Kenyans than the threat from terrorism.

On 22 July 2012 Bishop Julius Kalu told worshipers at Mombasa’s Anglican cathedral “our greatest fear as Church should not be the grenade attacks, but the new teachings like same sex marriages.”

Kenya has witnessed an upsurge of sectarian violence in recent months.  In April a grenade attack on a church killed one worshiper and on 1 July gunmen raided two churches killing at least 17 and wounding more than 60 people in Garissa, the capital of Kenya’s Northeast Province along the border with Somalia.  Garissa serves as the Kenyan Army’s base of operations in its campaign against the al Qaeda linked Somali Muslim terrorist group al Shabaab.

Bishop Kalu told the cathedral congregation that churches had seen a fall in attendance since the start of the al Shabaab bombing campaign as people have stayed at home, afraid of the violence.  While not deprecating the threat of terrorist violence, the bishop stated the greater evil was the lies of Satan that would pull people away from the faith – not the attacks of men.

“Christians must be fully armed spiritually as it is only divine intervention that will enable the country overcome these challenges,” the bishop said according to the East African Standard.

“The Church is at war with enemies of the faith,” Bishop Kalu said, citing those who sought to change the doctrine of marriage.

An editorial in the Nairobi Star took the bishop to task for his comments arguing that “these gays are not hurting anyone. They are minding their own business. And what they do behind closed doors with a consenting partner should remain private, just as it should for husband and wife.”

“Terrorism on the other hand is a deadly threat to Kenya,” the Star said as “many Kenyans die each year at the hands of al Shabaab. Tourism at the Coast is depressed because of terrorism. Gays do not hurt Kenya. Terrorists do hurt Kenya. It is extraordinary that Bishop Kalu cannot see this,” it said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Sexualty fight heats up as Irish Archbishop announces his retirement: Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2012 June 18, 2012

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The Primate of All Ireland, Dr. Alan Harper, has announced that he will step down by 1 October 2012, leaving his successor the task of moderating the church’s spirited debate over homosexuality.

In a statement released last week the Church of Ireland Press Office said Dr. Harper “will continue to carry out all the duties and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland as normal until 30 September 2012.”

“The Church of Ireland House of Bishops will consider in due course the selection of a successor,” the press office said.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, said: ‘In responding to the Archbishop of Armagh’s announcement of his forthcoming retirement, I wish to pay tribute to his strong commitment to fairness and steadfastness in office.”

“Across the Church of Ireland, Archbishop Harper has sought to enable a wide range of voices to be heard on a broad spectrum of topics,” Dr. Jackson said. “Together with all my fellow–bishops, and the Church of Ireland at large, I wish Archbishop Harper and Mrs Harper everything that is best in retirement.”.

Born in Tamworth, Staffordshire in 1944, Dr. Harper was educated at Leeds University and worked for the Archeological Survey of Northern Ireland before he entered Trinity College Dublin to train for the ministry.

Ordained deacon in 1978 and priest in 1979, Dr. Harper began his ministry in Northern Ireland in Connor diocese from 1978-1980. In 1980 he moved to Derry diocese to be incumbent of Moville and then became incumbent of Christ Church Londonderry from 1982-1986. Returning to Connor diocese Dr. Harper served as incumbent of Malone from 1986-2002.

On 17 December 2001 Dr. Harper was elected Bishop of Connor and on 9 January 2007 he was elected Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland by the House of Bishops.

Tensions over homosexuality and church have dominated the deliberations of the Church of Ireland during the last few years of Dr. Harper’s tenure as primate. The outgoing archbishop has sought to engender conversation over this issue, while maintaining the current church teachings on human sexuality.

At its May meeting of General Synod, the church adopted Motion 8 which reaffirmed its traditional teaching on marriage and rejected gay marriage and gay clergy. In the wake of the Motion 8 vote evangelical and liberal bishops indicated the fight was far from over.

Speaking to the Belfast News Letter, Bishop Harold Miller of Down & Dromore, a leading Evangelical bishop, said he would like the Church of Ireland to adopt a policy like that of the Church of England which requires clergy who enter into civil unions to give assurances to their bishop that their private conduct is in conformance with the church’s standards of clergy conduct.

The recent vote by synod had made clear that “sexual intercourse is only properly within marriage, that marriage can only be defined as between one man and one woman for the Church of Ireland, so same-sex marriage is out and that outside marriage what is asked of people is that they live chaste lives,” the bishop said.

Permitting the Dean of Leithlin to enter into a civil union was a “serious situation,” the bishop said, and “it would be very helpful to hear some clarification about the situation.

One of the two bishops who voted against Motion 8, Bishop Paul Colton of Cork told his diocesan synod that he would not back away from his commitment to “diversity”.

“Are we not instead called to live uncomfortably and prophetically in a place where the edges of belonging are fuzzy rather than defined; attracting people in rather than pushing them out; breaking down barriers; taking down walls of division; including rather than excluding,” he asked on 9 June 2012.

“I believe and hope that in this part of the Church of Ireland, the response to lesbian and gay fellow Christians will be marked by continued welcome and inclusion and, indeed, there is, to my mind, a sound Christian charter and path in those words I saw over the door of Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver: ‘Open doors; Open Hearts; Open Minds’,” the bishop said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Australian bishop rejects church ban on gay clergy: The Church of England Newspaper, May 27, 2012 p 7. June 4, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Bishop John McIntyre

An Australian bishop has told his diocesan synod that as a matter of conscience he cannot abide by the church’s policy forbidding the ordination or deployment of non-celibate gay clergy.

In his presidential address to the 36th meeting of the Synod of the Diocese of Gippsland, Bishop John McIntyre said that as a matter of conscience he could not conform to the House of Bishops protocol on gay clergy. At their March meeting the bishops agreed that they accepted “the weight” of the 1998 Lambeth Resolution on Human Sexuality as well as resolutions adopted by the Australian General Synod as “expressing the mind of this church on issues of human sexuality.”

The bishops stated they would “uphold the position of our Church in regard to human sexuality as we ordain, license, authorise or appoint to ministries within our dioceses.”

In a statement given to Eternity magazine, a spokesman for the primate, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall said “In effect it is an undertaking not to ordain, license, authorise or appoint persons whom the bishop knows to be in a sexual relationship outside of marriage.”

In his 19 May 2012 address, Bishop McIntyre said that he would not conform with this protocol.

“I will appoint to office in our diocese those whom I believe God is calling to minister among us,” he said adding that this as “my commitment to God and to you, and I am willing to live with any consequences that may arise from remaining true to that commitment.”

The bishop explained that his defiance was based upon his reading of Scripture.

“Only in light of reflection on God’s Word did I finally come to understand. Despite what I or others may believe is their worthiness, the fruit of the works of many gay and lesbian people has brought God’s blessing to me and to many other people, both in and beyond the church. That is the measure of their worthiness to minister in the name of Jesus Christ in the life of the church, and in the community in the name of the church. That indicates their place in the life of God’s people.”

“Put simply, I think God has been saying to me for many years now ‘If it is good enough for me, John, why is it not good enough for you?’” the bishop said.

Science and new ways of reading Scripture had led the bishop to this conclusion.

“The world is round, not flat, despite what those who first penned the words of the Bible thought and assumed. It took the church a long time to acknowledge this, and in the name of orthodoxy, it treated Galileo rather shabbily along the way.”

The medieval church’s rejection of Galileo was an “exegetical parallel” for the church as it wrestled with homosexuality.

“Because of recent new understanding, we now all know that same-sex attracted people are not heterosexual people who have made a perverse choice about how they express their sexuality. They simply are what they are. We might like to argue about whether this is how life should or should not be, but that will not change the way it is. And we have to respond to what is,” Bishop McIntyre said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Evangelical pressure on pro-gay Irish bishop: The Church of England Newspaper, May 27, 2012 p 7. May 31, 2012

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Bishop Michael Burrows

Evangelical leaders in the Church of Ireland are pressing the church to question the Bishop of Cashel & Ossory and the Dean of Leithlin, asking that they clarify their actions and views on homosexuality.

In a statement printed on its website last week, Reform Ireland criticized the Bishop Michael Burrows of Cashel & Ossory for his support of gay clergy civil unions and his vote against Motion 8 at last week’s meeting of General Synod in Dublin.

The Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt. Rev. Harold Miller – a co-sponsor of Motion 8 with Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin – told the Belfast News Letter the man at the centre of the gay clergy civil union row, Dean Tom Gordon, should clarify whether his gay civil union was platonic or sexual.

The 10 May post on the conservative Evangelical group’s website was sharply critical of Bishop Burrows, who it called “one of the bishops at the centre of the homosexual row.”

His “unilateral actions instigated the greatest degree of disunity the Church of Ireland has seen in the modern era, was one of those whose remarks led to the motion, affirming the traditional Christian belief in marriage as outlined in Canon 31, being dismissed: this, despite the fact that the House of Bishops themselves had as a body brought the motion to the General Synod in the first place!”

“What a shambles! It was even applauded – at least by those keen to introduce homosexuality as a valid Christian lifestyle in the Church of Ireland,” Reform said, adding that it “begs the question what unity is there in the Church of Ireland and what sort of behaviour are the House of Bishops modelling?”

Bishop Burrows did not respond to a request for comments.

After being withdrawn from consideration Motion 8, which affirmed the church’s traditional moral teachings and implicitly rejected gay marriage and non-celibate gay clergy, was reintroduced by the bishops on the second day of synod with slight amendments, and was overwhelmingly approved by all houses of synod on the third day of proceedings following four hours of debate.  Bishop Burrows, along with Bishop Paul Colton of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, voted against the motion.

In an interview published 15 May 2012 with the News Letter, Bishop Miller said he would like the Church of Ireland to adopt a policy like that of the Church of England which requires clergy who enter into civil unions to give assurances to their bishop that their private conduct is in conformance with the church’s standards of clergy conduct.

Bishop Miller said that “as I understand it,” the Church of England’s position is that “if a minister is in a civil partnership that person has to make it clear to their bishop that it’s not a sexual relationship.”

“The Church of Ireland has not yet made that clear,” the bishop said.

The recent vote by synod had made clear that “sexual intercourse is only properly within marriage, that marriage can only be defined as between one man and one woman for the Church of Ireland, so same-sex marriage is out and that outside marriage what is asked of people is that they live chaste lives,” the bishop said.

Dean Tom Gordon’s entering into a civil union was a “serious situation,” the bishop said.

“You can see what has happened in the church – and I think it would be very helpful to hear some clarification about the situation.

“I mean, I don’t know, for example, if Dean Tom Gordon would be prepared to clarify the situation and say: I am not living in a sexual relationship. That may well be the case,” Bishop Miller said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

ARCIC co-chair: Anglicans and Catholics do not share a common moral view on homosexuality: The Church of England Newspaper, May 20, 2012 p 6. May 28, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Communion, ARCIC, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Participants of ARCIC III

Anglicans and Roman Catholics have differing views on the morality of homosexual behavior, the Anglican co-chair of the ARCIC talks claimed last week.

Archbishop David Moxon’s remarks came as members of the third session of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC III) gathered in Hong Kong for their second session of ecumenical dialogue.

Meeting at the Mission to Seafarers in Kowloon from 3-10 May 2012, the commission released a statement saying the gathering “built upon the schema it had prepared at its first meeting. The schema seeks to address the interrelated ecclesiological and ethical questions of its mandate under four headings: the identity and mission of the Church; the patterning of the Church’s life that undergirds local and universal communion; shortcomings in the churches which obscure the glory of God; and ethical discernment and teaching. Members presented papers in each of these areas which were discussed both in plenary and in small groups.”

The communiqué stated that to “assist its own understanding, the Commission is preparing case studies in three ethical areas: matters which historically once seemed settled but which, upon reflection, have come to be viewed quite differently by both traditions.(slavery); issues on which Anglican and Roman Catholic teaching is at variance (divorce and remarriage, contraception); and evolving issues (a theology of work and the economy). It is not intended that the Commission will seek to resolve disputed ethical questions. Rather, its purpose is to analyze the means by which our two traditions have arrived at or are currently determining ‘right ethical teaching’.”

Speaking to the press after the meeting the Anglican co-chair, Archbishop Moxon stated that homosexuality was another ethical area where Anglicans and Roman Catholics diverged.  He told ENI that it is easier for the two churches to have a common understanding on social ethics, but not sexual ethics and the topic of homosexuality. But he stressed that the study of some “first principles” from the two churches, like the study of the Bible, may help to build up common ground.

The Commission will prepare further papers, expand the case studies, and continue its work in preparation for its next meeting 29 April to  6 May 2013.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Has Time printed the worst Anglican article ever?: Get Religion, May 18, 2012. May 18, 2012

Posted by geoconger in GAFCON, Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, New Hampshire.
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How Will Anglicans React if New Hampshire Episcopalians Elect Another Gay Bishop?” Time Magazine asks in a 17 May 2012 article printed on its website.

To which this Anglican responds, “Why don’t you ask them?”

Question headlines are often a flag of trouble ahead for an article — a signal that the article will be weak. The question is usually a rhetorical one — the answer is given by the editorial voice of the article. Or it is some sort of “come on” — an exaggerated statement to attract the reader’s attention.

No, this is not the worst Anglican article ever printed. There have been silly Anglican articles, wrong Anglican articles, dumb Anglican articles, partisan/hack job Anglican articles, and egregiously cruel and ignorant Anglican news articles printed over the past few decades, so it is false and unkind of me to say this is the worst Anglican article ever. Nor can the author be blamed for the silly headline, as reporters seldom write their own headlines.

But this article on the forthcoming episcopal election in the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire is a wreck. While the editorial voice of this ill-informed story supports the progressive agenda in the Episcopal Church, it does so by treating the actors in this drama as one dimensional creatures — cartoons who represent issues rather than people whose lives are not exclusively driven by issues in human sexuality.

The lede of this story begins:

In the summer of 1992, an Episcopalian priest in Baltimore officiated at the wedding of two female congregants. Though he had been “careful to obtain all the necessary permissions,” it wasn’t long before the Rev. William Rich found himself on the front page of the Baltimore Sun and at the center of a religious controversy. Rich was criticized by many in the community and church for performing a gay wedding ceremony, but he’s never regretted the move. …

First problem — the claim that Fr. Rich performed a wedding for two women is false. The 1992

Baltimore Sun article reported that a blessing ceremony took place — but also stated this ceremony was not a marriage and should not be construed as being a marriage.

Father Rich, who is a chaplain at Goucher College, says the ceremony he devised at the request of the women involved was not a wedding but “the blessing of two people committed to each other.”

The Bishop of Maryland told the Sun:

Bishop Eastman said he was assured by the priest “that the liturgy in question was not in any sense intended to be a marriage as Christians understand that sacrament.”

“It was meant to be a private event addressing personal, pastoral needs,” the bishop added. “Neither the two women involved nor Father Rich desired to advance a cause or make a public statement of any kind.”

There is a difference between marriage in a church and the blessing of two people in a same-gender relationship. It is a gross error to conflate the two.

The article then transitions into the story that Fr. Rich is one of three candidates standing for election as Bishop of New Hampshire. It reports that he is an “openly gay man” and and notes that delegates to the diocesan electoral convention:

… will cast their vote by secret ballot to choose a replacement for the current bishop, the retiring Gene Robinson, who is also gay. If a second gay man is elected to the post, the selection will likely reverberate through the staunchly conservative arms of the Anglican Communion, a global network of churches to which the Episcopalians belong. It could also widen a fissure in the network that’s been forming for quite some time.

Second problem — the analysis offered here is just plain dumb. Gay and lesbian clergy have stood for election in several dioceses of the Episcopal Church since Gene Robinson was elected in 2003, and one was elected suffragan or assistant bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles in 2009. The news that a gay clergyman is standing for election as bishop of New Hampshire is hardly shocking to anyone who has any knowledge of the Episcopal Church or the wider Anglican Communion.

The assertion that the election of Fr. Rich would widen a “fissure in the network” is an equally silly statement. The Anglican Communion is not a network of churches but a communion of churches — this is a theological term. The Lutheran World Federation is a network of churches. The Roman Catholic Church is a single church — it would say it is the church. Anglicans like the Orthodox are in between. They see themselves as part of a single catholic church whose members reside in autonomous national churches — one of the battles being waged within the Anglican world is on the nature of this autonomy. Is it absolute or conditional?

To call Anglicans a network of churches implies Time has decided that it backs one side in the dispute — or is an indication of ignorance.

I suspect it is ignorance on Times’ part, as the impending fissure has already happened. Approximately 22 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion are in some form of impaired communion with the Episcopal Church. This rupture has taken many forms, but the break has already occurred.

(Last October the Episcopal Church’s national office released talking points disputing the figure of 22 of 38 cited by GetReligion’s Mollie Ziegler Hemingway in an article she wrote for the Wall Street Journal. However, a little checking showed the Episcopal Church’s claim to be false.)

The current state of play is of a broken communion. One where some bishops will not attend meetings if other bishops, whom they regard as apostate, are present. A communion where its leaders can no longer worship together as they cannot all receive the Eucharist, Holy Communion, in the same service. As the former primate, (the archbishop or presiding bishop of a province) of the Province of the Southern Cone (the southern half of South America) told me in 2009, the traditionalists do not believe the leaders of the Episcopal Church are “Christians as we understand it.”

The article attempts to place what it thinks might be the impending split in historical context, stating the:

… crack in the Anglican community began to appear about nine years ago when Robinson became the first openly gay (and not celibate) man to be ordained as bishop.

Problem three — The crack has been around for almost 40 years and has been steadily widening. The consecration of Gene Robinson was a significant event, but hardly the first event in the splintering of the Anglican Communion. GetReligion’s tmatt has written extensively on this point and I need not restate the accurate Anglican timeline here.

The language used by this article is biased and ill-informed and full of questionable assumptions and conclusions. The story of Gene Robinson wearing a bullet-proof vest to his consecration is shared. And yes, it is true he wore such a vest. Yet the article does not go further in developing this point and the claims repeated over the years of physical danger. The only clergyman whose murder so far can be laid at the feet of the Anglican wars is Canon Rodney Hunter of Malawi. Popping in the death threat business without context speaks to the lack of knowledge of the subject under review.

Ignorance continues to drive this story to its end. It notes:

It doesn’t look like the issue is dying down, either. Last month, an ultra-conservative Anglican offshoot group, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, held a conference in London to address the gay bishop question.

Problem four — The FCA conference was not held to address the gay bishop question. The FCA seeks to reform and renew the Anglican Communion from within and by doing so, win souls for Christ. It is also laughable to call the FCA an “ultra-conservative Anglican offshoot group” as it leaders represents the majority of members of the Anglican Communion. One might was well say the Diocese of New Hampshire is an “ultra-liberal Anglican offshoot group”.

The article continues with silly statements and assertions about the structure of the Anglican Communion, why Archbishop Rowan Williams announced his retirement, but returns to New Hampshire for its close.

When asked about the potential for controversy if the diocese were to elect another gay bishop, Reverend Adrian Robbins-Cole, the president of the Standing Committee, insisted that the committee only felt excitement about Rich, as well as the other two candidates, Rev. Penelope Maud Bridges, and Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld. “What we really focus on is trying to be guided by God to elect the bishop who we need in New Hampshire and whom we think is going to thrive and grow,” Robbins-Cole says. “That’s our real focus.”

A grammar point here. It should be “the Rev.”, never  “Rev.”

I do feel sorry for Fr. Rich, Time is touting his candidacy in such a vulgar way that it might well trigger a backlash among New Hampshire voters. It also does a disservice to Fr. Rich’s candidacy as it turns him into a one dimensional figure whose only merit is that he is gay. Being classified as a novelty candidate, or a one issue priest, treats him as a token and implies the Diocese of New Hampshire sees only that aspect of his  life and work.

What then can one say about this wreck? It is factually incorrect, ill-informed about the issue, dismissive and disparaging of one side, and condescending towards the other. It asks a question of Anglican conservatives, but goes for answer to a white Australian conservative — when the majority of voices arrayed against the liberal wing of the church are African, Asian and Indian.

This may  not be the worst Anglican article ever written, but it comes close.

First printed in GetReligion.

Methodist “no” to homosexuality: The Church of England Newspaper, May 13, 2012 p 6. May 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Methodism.
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Gay activists demonstrating at the Methodist General Assembly

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church has reaffirmed its teaching that same-sex relationships are “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

On 3 May 2012 delegates to the church assembly meeting in Tampa voted by a 60 per cent to 40 per cent margin to affirm the church’s traditional teaching in the Book of Discipline on human sexuality.  The Book of Discipline, Paragraph 161F states: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.

As the vote was announced, gay activists clad in rainbow stoles took to the floor of the meeting in protest, temporarily suspending the proceedings.  Resolutions asking the General Conference to state that it disagrees over the issue of homosexuality were also defeated.

With approximately 8 million members, the Methodist Church is among the largest denominations in the United States.  However, almost half of its membership now resides overseas.  While the issue may be brought back to the next meeting of the General Conference in 2016, it is unlikely to pass as the American half of the church has been in decline while the overseas half has grown rapidly.

The vote not to repudiate its teachings on homosexuality follows recent moves by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church USA and the Episcopal Church to normalize homosexuality.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Reporting on gays, women and the PCUSA splits: Get Religion, April 27, 2012 April 27, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Presbyterian/Church of Scotland, Press criticism, Women Priests.
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Thou shakest thy head and hold’st it fear or sin
To speak a truth. If he be slain, say so;
The tongue offends not that reports his death:
And he doth sin that doth belie the dead,
Not he which says the dead is not alive.
Yet the first bringer of unwelcome news
Hath but a losing office, and his tongue
Sounds ever after as a sullen bell,
Remember’d tolling a departing friend.

The Earl of Northumberland in Henry IV part II
Act I, scene 1, lines 95-103
William Shakespeare

Blaming the teller of bad news for the bad news is as old as time. Reporters who break stories about malfeasance in churches are often attacked for airing dirty linen. I’ve been reproached by those perturbed by what they read in my stories about bad behavior in churches. My critics argue that as a Christian (which I am) and a priest (which I am) I should suppress discomforting or embarrassing news. I should take as my guide Matthew 18:15-17.

15 If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

I am not persuaded by their Biblical exegesis nor by the merits of the argument, believing that truth telling is a higher virtue than face saving. The phrase, “shooting the messenger” is a valid rejoinder to these criticisms,

The same retort can be applied to media criticism. Complaining about what something is not, rather than addressing what it is, is a form of shooting the messenger. When there is a hole in a story a reader should not assume the reporter is responsible. Some things are unknowable — try as we like, reporters are not omniscient.

A recent story in The Colorado Springs Gazette on the disaffiliation of one of the state’s largest churches from its parent denomination — the Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A. (PCUSA) — brought this problem to mind.

Let me say up front there is nothing wrong with the article on the First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs’ vote to leave its presbytery — it is a workman-like story that relates crisply the facts. But The Gazette story entitled “Sparked by acceptance of gay ministers, First Presbyterian bolts denomination” seemed to be missing something. This something was not the rather dumb headline. The story makes it clear that it was not only about gay ministers and the church didn’t bolt — but reporters do not write headlines and this brick forms no part of my critique.

The lede is clean and lays out the facts well:

In an historic vote Sunday morning, the largest Presbyterian church in Colorado voted overwhelmingly to leave its governing body and join a new, more conservative denomination.

An estimated 95.5 percent of the 1,769 congregants who cast ballots at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Colorado Springs voted to leave the mainstream Presbyterian Church USA in favor of the newly-created Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.

The new denomination was created with the help of First Presbyterian’s senior pastor Jim Singleton.

The reporter’s editorial voice comes into play at this stage through her selection of quotes — and to her credit she does not play favorites. After relating the news of the vote, the author addressed the question of the minority who opposed the vote — identified as 80 out of almost 1780 members who voted. The first quote comes from a church spokesman who acknowledges that “some members may leave.

This is followed by a quote from a church spokesman stating the vote was historic. Background on the church and its decision to leave the PCUSA follows with The Gazette avoiding the mistake of portraying this as being solely a gay issue.

Sunday’s vote was the culmination of almost a year’s worth of work by church leaders who wanted to distance themselves from the Presbyterian Church USA. That organization voted in 2011 to allow openly gay ministers to be ordained, but First Presbyterian leaders say the divide is greater than just that issue – going back to a basic way that scriptures are read and interpreted.

“God has called us to respond to his call, step into something new and hold firm to our understanding of scripture,” Cindy Sparks, chair of the church’s Board of Trustees said Sunday morning.

Further detail on the vote and what happens next follow, as does a quote from a member of the minority opposed to the split, and closing quote from a member of the majority. All in all this was a very clean story.

But it was also incomplete. The pastor is quoted as saying this was historic. Well why was it historic? The story is not clear on this point. Was it historic for First Pres, for Presbyterians in Colorado, for all Presbyterians?

I was struck by the weakness of the pastor’s comments reported in the article as to why it was historic. Did the reporter not do her job? Did she not understand what was said? I think she did. The problem was that she was not given much to work with.

When I checked the church’s website and read the statement issued after the vote, I found that all the reporter had to work with were some rather anodyne comments. If you want to know why this was a “historic day”, you won’t find an answer from the church.

As an aside — What is it about Colorado Springs and conservative churches? First Presbyterian of Colorado Springs was the largest PCUSA congregation in Colorado and it quit is denomination. In 2007 Colorado’s largest Episcopal Church, Grace and St Stephen’s in Colorado Springs, quit its denomination over the same basic issues as First Presbyterian. That split ended badly for the parish and the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado — the Presbyterians appear to have avoided the path of litigation. Is there something in the air, or unique to the culture of that community that would see schisms in two mainline congregations — as well as produce inordinately large Episcopal and Presbyterian churches?

To find out why this was historic — and why this story has wider significance you need to do some research in the congregation’s website. What is the significance of the choice of First Pres’s new denomination? The article mentions that the pastor, Jim Singleton, helped form the ECO — Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians — but why did the church not join one of the existing conservative Presbyterian groups?

A letter to the congregation on the church website states that it was the issue of women ministers that led First Pres to the ECO, as the existing conservative groups were not as accepting of women clergy as was First Pres.

One of the subtexts often unreported in the stories about the mainline splits is the question of women clergy. Conservatives leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church may be at odds with their denomination’s teachings on human sexuality, and they may express this as being a division over the interpretation of Scripture, but amongst themselves they are divided over women clergy.

And this division over women clergy is driven by the interpretation of Scripture. What criteria is First Pres using to say that the PCUSA has broken with Scripture over homosexual clergy, but not over women clergy? In asking this question, I am not assuming an answer — rather seeking development of an issue. One, for example, that may well divide the nascent Anglican conservative church, the Anglican Church in North America, and is dividing First Pres and the ECO from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

I also liked this article from The Gazette because it did not make the mistake so often made by newspapers in distilling the mainline splits into a story about opposition to gay ministers or gay marriage. That is part, but is far from the whole story. It is the back half of the story — the question of where these breakaway churches are going and why — that was missing. And, if the church can’t explain why — a reporter can’t tell her readers why.

The first bringer of unwelcome news, as Shakespeare observes, hath but a losing office. Beating up on the press for omitting part of a story is easy. But when the actors in the drama don’t say their lines — the reporter is unable to say it for them.

What say you GetReligion readers? Is this a case of the subject, not the journalist, dropping the ball? Who should be telling this story?

Gay clergy banned in Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, April 22, 2012 p 7. April 20, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Bishop John McIntyre

The annual meeting of the Australian church’s House of Bishops in Melbourne has adopted a protocol reaffirming the church’s position banning the ordination and deployment of non-celibate gay clergy.

On 29 March 2012 Anglican Media Sydney posted to its website the statement adopted by the meeting. It noted that “in comparison with other Bishops meetings, especially those associated with the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Australian agreement is being seen as a conservative stance.”

The protocols “express the common mind of the bishops as determined by consensus at our National Meeting” the bishops wrote, noting that they had agreed to “abide by them and renew this commitment annually by consensus.”

The bishops said they “accept the weight of 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 and the 2004 General Synod resolutions 33, 59 and 61-64 as expressing the mind of this church on issues of human sexuality.”

They “undertake to uphold the position of our Church in regard to human sexuality as we ordain, license, authorise or appoint to ministries within our dioceses.”

And they “understand that issues of sexuality are subject to ongoing conversation within our Church and we undertake to support these conversations, while seeking to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

In a statement given to Eternity magazine, a spokesman for the primate, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall said “In effect it is an undertaking not to ordain, license, authorise or appoint persons whom the bishop knows to be in a sexual relationship outside of marriage.”

Spokesman for Changing Attitude Australia did not respond to a request for comments, nor did the Bishop of Gippsland whose licencing of a partnered gay priest to a parish living last year prompted sharp criticism.  Bishop John McIntyre told the ABC radio service the appointment of a partnered gay priest did not violate the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution on human sexuality, “because I didn’t actually ordain this man. He was ordained over 30 years ago in the diocese of Melbourne.”

The new protocol, however, clarifies the understanding of the issues for the Australian church as it forbids the call and employment of clergy whose personal lives do not conform to the church’s teaching on marriage and sexual relations.

Church of Ireland debates sex and Christian belief: The Church of England Newspaper, March 15, 2012 March 15, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage.
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The Archbishops of Dublin and Armagh. Photo: Church of Ireland Press Office

The Church of Ireland has reaffirmed its belief in traditional marriage.  In a statement released at the conclusion of a two-day meeting in Ballyconnell, the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin stated the “church’s position on marriage as being the union of one man and one woman remains constant”.

Approximately 450 members of the Church of Ireland’s General Synod met from 9-10 March 2012 at the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan at a special meeting of synod called to discuss human sexuality “in the context of Christian belief”.

The meeting had been organized by the Irish House of Bishops in response to the controversy surrounding the revelation that the Dean of Leighlin in July 2011 registered a same-sex civil union with his partner, with the tacit approval of his bishop.

The special two day meeting was not designed to achieve a resolution to the disputes over human sexuality, organizers of the conference told The Church of England Newspaper, but to further debate.  The gathering was also closed to the press in order to facilitate the free flow of discussion.

The conference opened with address from Dr. Alan Harper, the Archbishop of Armagh and Dr. Michael Jackson, the Archbishop of Dublin and was followed by round table discussion of the scripture and human sexuality led by Bishop Richard Clarke of Meath and Kildare.  After a break for dinner the conference reassembled to hear “storytellers” offer “their personal experiences from gay perspectives.”

A series of seminars were offered on Friday evening and Saturday morning.  The Rev Doug Baker, a consultant to the Church of Ireland’s Hard Gospel Committee and instructor at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, spoke on the topic of handling conflicts within the church, while Mrs. Ethne Harkness and Judge Catherine McGuinness gave an overview of the state of legislation in Northern Ireland and the Republic on civil partnerships and the proposals being put forward by the coalition government on gay marriage.

Two ecumenical participants, Bishop Jana Jeruma-Gringberga of the Lutheran Church in Great Britain and Dr Andrew Goddard of the Church of England led a seminar on the science and psychology of same-sex attraction and gender determination, while Dr. William Olhausen, rector of Killiney Parish, Ballybrack, and Dr Stephen White, Dean of Killaloe in Co Clare spoke to the theological issues at play.

Dr. Bryan Follis, rector of All Saints’ Church, Belfast and the Rev Brian O’Rourke, rector of St Anne’s Church, Shandon in Cork offered differing views on the pastoral care of gay people in congregations.  Dr Follis affirmed the church’s traditional teaching on the morality of homosexual behavior, but discussed ways of providing pastoral support to those with a homosexual orientation that reflected the love of Christ while being faithful to his word.  Mr. O’Rourke, rector of parish self-described “inclusive church” argued the church should provide the same level of support to gay people that it did to all others, including offering them the opportunity to marry.

Two sets of parents spoke of their experiences with gay children, while the chairperson of Changing Attitude Ireland, Canon Virginia Kennerley and the chaplain at Queen’s University Belfast, the Rev. Barry Forde, spoke on the question whether it was possible to agree to disagree.

On the second day, the Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt. Rev. Harold Miller led a study for the conference on the Gospel texts surrounding human sexuality (Matt 5:17-48; Matt 19:3-12; Matt 25:31-46; John 4:1-54), while the Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin & Ardagh, the Rt. Rev. Ken Clarke, discussed Rom 1:8-32 and 1 Cor 1:1-20.

In their statement the archbishops affirmed the conference had seen “substantial conversation reflecting strongly held convictions characterised by clarity of expression without judgmentalism.”

It had been held in a climate of “respectful dialogue” and it was “clear that there is a breadth of opinion in the Church of Ireland on these matters but also a strong sense of the cohesiveness of the church.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Gay clergy row heating up in Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, March 2, 2012 p 4. March 8, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Bishop John McIntyre of Gippsland

A new hot spot appears to be forming in the Anglican Communion’s decade old war over human sexuality following the appointment of a partnered gay clergyman to a parish benefice in Australia.  The Bishop of Gippsland has rejected suggestions he violated the letter and spirit of Australian canon law and pan-Anglican agreements on human sexuality by licencing Mr. David Head to serve as minister of the Anglican Church in Heyfield, Victoria.

On 27 February 2012, Bishop John McIntyre told the ABC radio service the appointment was not improper.  “If [conservatives] think that I have acted against the Lambeth Resolution [1.10 of 1998 on human sexuality], they need to think again, because I didn’t actually ordain this man. He was ordained over 30 years ago in the diocese of Melbourne.”

The appointment of Mr. Head has caused some controversy in the rural diocese in Victoria as the announcement was made via a front page article in the December issue of diocesan newspaper that pictured the minister with his partner.  Sources within the diocese tell The Church of England Newspaper they were perturbed the bishop had chosen to make the announcement in this way, and one large parish has already voiced its objections to the bishop’s unilateral decision to change diocesan policy.

One Gippsland clergyman, who asked not to be named, told CEN that the bishop’s actions were not unlike shifting abuser clergy between posts with the new diocese taking no responsibility or notice of inconvenient truths arising from the old diocese.  The issue will likely be brought before the May meeting of synod, CEN was told.

The Sydney-based Anglican Church League (ACL) released a statement expressing its “dismay” with the bishop’s actions on 12 Feb 2012, which it said violated Scripture, Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10, the Jerusalem Declaration of 2008 and the Australian Church’s professional standards for clergy.

“Appointments like this put unwanted strain and tension upon relationships between the various dioceses of the Anglican Church of Australia.  It also contributes to the fragmentation of the Anglican Communion,” the ACL said.

Bishop McIntyre rejected this argument, saying he had told his diocese at is 2011 synod that Gippsland would be a welcoming diocese for gays and lesbians.  Nor had he violated any rule, guideline or canon.

Mr. Head “has been a priest in a parish in the diocese of Melbourne where, when he was inducted into that parish the bishop of the day welcomed not only him, but his partner Mark into the life of the parish and the people of that parish were well aware that David was in that relationship, living in the vicarage of that parish,” he said.

“I see myself simply as having appointed to a position in this diocese a person who was, to use the formal language, ‘a priest in good standing in his previous diocese’,” Bishop McIntyre said.

ACL chairman Dr. Mark Thompson told CEN this argument was specious.  “In the face of all that has gone on since Lambeth 1998 Bishop McIntyre’s decision cannot be excused as a mere oversight,” he said.

He noted that while the appointment of Mr. Head “may not be an ordination – what an extraordinarily narrow reading of the central issue – it was still an appointment which should not have been made.”

“Bishop McIntyre is aware” he added, of the “official reiterations of biblical teaching on the subject [of human sexuality] by Anglican authorities in Australia and elsewhere. Nevertheless he would seem unwilling to draw back from this scandalous appointment and by going ahead he has heightened tensions within the Anglican Church of Australia.”

“Actions such as this have torn the Anglican Communion apart. In the face of all that has gone on since Lambeth 1998 Bishop McIntyre’s decision cannot be excused as a mere oversight.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Gay rights v church rites: Get Religion, January 17, 2012 January 17, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Press criticism.
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I’d like to call your attention to some great religion reporting in the British press this week concerning Dr. Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans. Attention to detail and context, lightness of touch, lucid prose and a high degree of intellectual and moral sophistication mark these stories. There are also a few stinkers — the Guardian manages to mangle the facts and make unwarranted assumptions — but overall the reporting has been very good so far.

Let me focus on two of the best I have seen: the Independent and the Daily Mail.

Jonathan Petre of the Daily Mail broke the story of the week with his report that a senior cleric of the Church of England is threatening to sue the church on the grounds of employment discrimination for denying him preference because he is gay.

For those who have followed the Anglican wars of the past twenty-five years, Jeffrey John ranks with Gene Robinson and Jack Spong as being among the most newsworthy, admired or infamous (depending upon your perspective) liberal Anglican clerics. John figures prominently in Stephen Bates of the Guardian’s 2004 book A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality, which I heartily recommend to those who wish to delve deeper into this issue.

Petre (pronounced Peter) and the Sunday Times broke the story — but as the Times is behind a paywall it will not come into consideration in this post. The next day the Guardian and Telegraph followed with stories of their own, along with the Huffington Post and other outlets. The Independent ran its story on the second day as did the BBC

Some thoughtful opinion pieces have appeared as well, notably in the Guardian by Andrew Brown, George Pitcher in the Daily Mail and from popular bloggers including Peter Ould and Cranmer.  Because this was handed to the majors for a Sunday splash the church press in England, The Church of England Newspaper and the Church Times, won’t have reports out until Friday.

I want to hold out the Daily Mail story as an example of a great breaking news report, and the Independent for providing superior analysis and detail. The Daily Mail opens with:

A controversial gay dean has threatened to take the Church of  England to court after he was blocked from becoming a bishop.

The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, has instructed an eminent employment lawyer to complain to Church officials after being rejected for the role of Bishop of Southwark.

Sources say the dean, one of the most contentious figures in the Church, believes he could sue officials under the Equality Act 2010, which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. Such a case could create a damaging new rift within the CoE.

Dr John was at the centre of a storm in 2003 when forced to step down as Bishop of Reading by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams after it became known that he was in a gay, though celibate, relationship. The furore fuelled a bitter civil war within the Anglican Church that has dominated Dr Williams’s decade in office.

The story offers details of John’s career, noting he had allegedly been blocked by Archbishop Rowan Williams from becoming Bishop of Southwark in 2010, and reports he has engaged a high powered employment law attorney to represent him — an attorney who won a high profile case against the Church of England when it refused to hire a gay man as a youth minister.

This is a great example of a finely written first day story. In the small space allowed him by the Mail, Jonathan Petre gives the pertinent facts and history that allow the casual reader to understand why this is a major issue for the Church of England. We know this story will have legs. Petre’s style is tight and his reporting neutral. While we can expect the Daily Mail to take a conservative position on this matter, Petre’s story does not push the party line but allows the facts to tell the story.

He also avoids speculation. It would have been very easy to have written this story with a spiteful tone — implying John was being presumptuous and was a fool for not knowing how this would look to others. But Petre does not go down that road, because, (I suspect) he knows that this is not the case and that it is more likely that the very press-shy John has chosen to make this an issue for the cause of equal treatment for gay and lesbian clergy. In any event Petre knows when to stop the story an opening day story. He does a great job.

Of the second day stories, Jerome Taylor’s story in the Independent’s is far and away the best I have seen. It also ran an leader and published a somewhat silly op-ed piece. But the Taylor article is the one worth reading. Here is an example of his analysis:

The Church long ago decided there was essentially nothing to stop a gay man who lived a life of celibacy from becoming a bishop. Even within the orthodox wings there was acceptance it would be difficult to exclude someone who was living in an entirely celibate civil partnership – for most traditionalists the line in the sand was engaging in a physical, same-sex relationship.

But a grey area remained concerning clergy who at one time or another had a same-sex relationship but had since abandoned it in favour of celibacy. Could someone who had been physically homosexual ever become a bishop?

The Church’s legal note provided a stark answer. Only those who had “repented” their physically homosexual past could be considered for a bishop. You could be a gay bishop, but only if you vocally shunned your sexual past, a condition which is not imposed on heterosexual applicants.

Within conservative wings the caveat quickly became gleefully nicknamed “The Jeffrey John clause” – after the openly gay Dean of St Albans who was humiliatingly made to relinquish his appointment to the Bishop of Reading in 2003 following traditionalist outrage over his promotion. Dr John lives in a celibate relationship but has always said refused to apologise for his past.

In effect, the decision meant those who remained in the closet could climb the ecclesiastical pole, but those who were honest about their sexuality were disbarred. To the liberals it was a slap in the face – another clear indication that senior leaders within the Church of England had no desire to rock the boat or confront an issue that has deeply divided the Anglican Communion for much of the past 15 years.

This is a thoughtful and succinct summary. I admire his prose, his detail and insight. I also admire Taylor’s moral sense. Though I do not share his sentiments, I applaud his pursuit of truth and his attack on cant (something the Church of England does very well).

To get a sense of how strong a story this is, compare it to the second day story in the Guardian. That story manages to mangle the history — making John a candidate for Bishop of Bedford when he was nominated to be Bishop of Reading — and also makes unwarranted assumptions. Here is but one example:

Conservatives have reacted with dismay to news of John’s apparent hiring of Alison Downie, an employment and discrimination law specialist, to fight his case over the Southwark post, which eventually went to Christopher Chessun.

How does the Guardian know this? With whom has it spoken? There is no shortage of conservative Church of England clergy who could give flesh to this assertion. I am also uncomfortable with the assumption the Guardian makes that John is driven by personal bitterness in challenging the church’s policies, when there is no evidence to substantiate this.

The issue of same-sex marriage is a contentious one in Britain. The Church of England, the Catholic Church and a number of civil society organizations have voiced their opposition to government proposals to broaden the gay civil unions law to marriage — the John affair adds another twist to what will be an interesting year for religion reporters.

The British press has taken a few hits of late, battered by the scandals surrounding the Murdoch tabloids. But as you can see from these stories, when they are good, they are great.

Wedding ring photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

First published in GetReligion.

Debate doctrine, not sex say Irish evangelicals: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2011 p 7. December 9, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Evangelical leaders in the Church of Ireland have questioned the parameters of the church’s forthcoming debate on human sexuality, warning that beginning the debate on this point might provide a political solution to a theological problem.

In a 29 Nov 2011 letter written under the signature of the Church of Ireland Evangelical Fellowship, the Evangelical Fellowship of Irish Clergy, New Wine Ireland and Reform Ireland, Irish evangelicals took the bishops to task for their passive approach to the divisions that appear set to tear the church apart.

The bishops’ response to one of their colleague’s approval of the same-sex civil partnership ceremony contracted by a senior clergyman “could convey the impression that the bishops are simply responding to issues that are not, in part, of their own making.”

In July the Dean of Leighlin registered a same-sex civil union with his partner, apparently with the tacit approval of the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory.  When news of the event broke, it caused an outcry in the Irish Church and on 5 October 2011 the bishops released a pastoral letter calling for a moratorium on clergy entering into same-sex civil partnerships.  They also asked critics of gay civil unions to moderate their language too while the Church begins debate.

The bishops said they had been planning on reviewing their 2003 statement on human sexuality, however, “recent well–publicised events within the Church of Ireland concerning the issue of serving clergy and civil partnerships have caused considerable hurt and confusion to many. Others saw what had happened as a positive development. In the Church of Ireland as a whole, in consequence, this has led to a painful experience of disunity.”

The bishops stated they would organise “a major conference in spring 2012” to discuss the issue, but noted the meeting “is not envisaged to be an end in itself” and would not settle the issue.

However, the bishops must realize that their indecision played a key part in “allowing the debate to unravel as it has,” the Irish evangelicals said.

“There has been a failure to engage in any process following the 2003 statement,” the evangelicals said, and this coupled with the “perception” that the gay union was contracted with the “foreknowledge and/or approval of a serving bishop” created an environment “not conducive to facilitating constructive dialogue.”

“We would seek a greater acknowledgment by the bishops of their own role in not building upon the letter of 2003 and, either individually or collegially, overseeing the present situation that has caused considerable hurt and confusion to many,” the said.

While they endorsed the call for debate, they stated that beginning the conversation with a discussion on human sexuality was the proper course.  “The defining issue is our vision of God, and what it means for His people to represent Him in His mission of love to redeem His world. If we start with the ethics of human sexuality the danger is that we will end up with rather legalistic and regulated forms of wording as to what is or is not acceptable, with potentially some very hurtful and divisive dialogue along the way.”

But if the debate began with a discussion of “our vision of God we might just end up with a renewed confidence in what it means to be a redeemed and transformed people,” the evangelical leaders said.

God & gays: the BBC on the Marin Foundation: Get Religion, Sept 29, 2011 September 29, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Get Religion, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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“Can one man build effective bridges between evangelical Christians and Chicago’s gay community?”

This question kicks off a fascinating article written by Christopher Landau for the BBC World Service’s Heart and Soul Programme entitled “Why conservative Christians flock to a Chicago gay bar“. I honor the BBC for tackling this difficult story; one with landmines for the unwary journalist.

But I ask, who would criticize a story about Andrew Marin: a man who “believes that polite, honest conversation between people of all perspectives is essential if Christians are to address questions about sexuality more effectively”? Who would be so heartless as to be against peace, love and happiness? It would be like drowning kittens.

I answer, me. This profile misses the mark. In its attempt to allow Andrew Marin to tell his story, it neglects to put that story into context. It makes assumptions and value judgments about the Evangelical Christianity and the GLBT movement that Marin seeks to reconcile without allowing the protagonists to define their terms or explain their cause.

This BBC story is quite similar to an Aug 2010 CBN broadcast entitled “Christian’s Outreach to Gays: I’m Sorry“. It too tees one up for Marin, not pressing him to define or defend his views, nor presenting opposing or critical comments. Marin even offers the same “Bible-banging homophobic” ‘money’ quote in each piece. He has his patter down pat.

Am I saying Marin’s work is misguided? No.

I am not offering opinions about his ministry or Christian moral teaching or the gay critique of institutional Christianity. It is the way the story has been crafted that I find unsatisfactory. No dead cats here.

Follow me then inside and see if you come out where I do.

The article begins by stating Marin is a “straight” evangelical Christian who:

.. works to try to bring Christians and gay people together in open conversation about sexuality and spirituality – and that includes running a large-scale meeting four times a year at Roscoe’s, one of America’s most famous gay bars.

That is no small achievement in a culture where openly gay people and evangelical Christians have long viewed each other with suspicion.

The scene has now been set and the BBC’s editorial voice speaks, saying “[Marin] believes that too many Christians don’t understand the complexity of the small number of Bible verses that mention homosexuality – he also thinks that gay people are often too quick to dismiss Christianity.”

On the heals of these strong sentiments, the story moves to a chronicle of Marin’s evolving beliefs and how he came to this work.

He had grown up in a conservative Christian household, and says he was “the biggest Bible-banging homophobic kid you ever met”. .. “I didn’t know what to do. I thought there was no way my theological belief system could ever line up with my [gay] friends’ way of life, so I ended up cutting ties with them.”

But Andrew Marin says that over the following months, he believed God was asking him to get back in touch with his friends and apologise to them.

A few weeks later, along with two of the three friends, he moved into Boystown [a gay neighborhood in Chicago].

The article then offers a colorful anecdote from his ministry and an explanation of his worldview.

One of the most unusual aspects of the Foundation’s work are its Living in the Tension gatherings, where people from all perspectives gather together to explore questions about Christian faith and sexuality. .. Most intriguing were two gay Christian men who had reached dramatically different conclusions about faith and sexuality.

Will is an openly gay man, and a pastor in the United Methodist Church.

He says he has resolved a “creative tension” he initially felt between his calling to ministry and his sexuality.

Sitting opposite him was Brian, who also says he’s always known he was gay – but whose traditional theology meant he chose to marry a woman and has since fathered a child.

He says that falling in love with his wife was “an experience that I can only say was through God himself bringing my wife and me together”.

A gay clergyman and an ex-gay: a nice counterpoint. This leads to the story’s cri de coeur:

http://downloads.cbn.com/cbnnewsplayer/cbnplayer.swf?aid=17710

But the Marin Foundation believes that polite, honest conversation between people of all perspectives is essential if Christians are to address questions about sexuality more effectively.

Not everyone is convinced that Christians are ready – or able – to have many such discussions. .. He says that the Marin Foundation simply wants to get gay people thinking about Christian spirituality in its broadest sense, without a disproportionate emphasis on sexual morality.

“What we try and do is help the person live the most faithful, God-honouring life that they can through their understanding of where God is leading them.”

This open-ended approach will frustrate both traditionalist and progressive Christians.

But few can argue with the fact that Andrew Marin’s foundation has enabled many conservative churches to begin open discussions about sexuality for the first time.

Now what is wrong with that? Well there is the small matter of hyperbole: Marin’s work has led “many” conservative churches to discuss human sexuality “for the first time”. Which churches? Or does he mean congregations? It seems conservative churches have been talking about sex for quite some time. Controversies over contraception, divorce and remarriage, the swinging 60′s, and now gay rights have been topics of seemingly unending discussion for the past seventy-five years, while the Bible seems to have had a bit to say about this (c.f. the Apostle Paul).

An expert’s voice is heard towards the close, a Harvard professor who says “my hope is that I would be willing to kneel at a communion table with my bitterest enemy in these debates.” Yet this quote shows the Harvard man holds a particular theological view of the Eucharist as a sacrament of unity that would not be shared by conservative evangelicals. For conservative evangelicals, one must have a shared doctrine to share communion, while for Roman Catholics, the Orthodox and like groups Eucharistic discipline forbids allowing those outside the fold from receiving the sacraments.

But more than this, the voices of evangelical Christians and the gay non-Christian community are missing from this article and last year’s CBN story. Robert Gagnon, the leading scholar on the traditional side of the debate, has sharply critiqued Marin’s work finding it to lack theological and Scriptural vigor. The blogosphere is also replete with critics of Marin from the opposite corner. Where are they?

Why spoil the sweetness and light with clouds of criticism? Because such reporting is unfaithful to the story.

American journalism is founded upon a methodology best articulated by the German historian Leopold von Ranke. It is a scientific objective worldview that sees the task of the journalist (like the historian) to report what actually happened (wie es eigentlich gewesen). In this school of writing, the journalist must set aside his own views and present a story on its own terms, to establish what the facts are and let the facts dictate the story.

Omitting dissent, in this view of reporting, gives a false impression of the past and injects the present into the past.

These high minded words beg the question whether such a project is even possible in this post-modernist age. Is it still possible for a reporter to show what actually happened?

NY passes gay marriage law: The Church of England Newspaper, July 1, 2011 p 7. July 5, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage, New York.
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Bishop Mark Sisk of New York

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The state of New York has legalized ‘gay marriage’. On 24 June, the state senate voted 33-29 to redefine marriage, making New York the largest and most influential American state to adopt the innovation. It also ends a string of defeats for the gay marriage movement, which saw similar bills rejected in Maryland and Rhode Island last month.

Church leaders in New York split over the vote, with five of the state’s six Episcopal bishops backing the measure while the Roman Catholic and Evangelical Churches opposed it.

In 2009 a similar bill failed to pass the Democrat-controlled senate. The state senate swung Republican last year, giving the GOP a 32-30 margin. However, when the vote came before the senate last week four Republicans voted in favour of the bill after language protecting religious liberties was introduced by Gov Andrew Cuomo.

The National Organization for Marriage, which opposed the bill, lambasted the “sham religious liberty language” in the compromise and vowed to turn the four Republican out of office.

Maggie Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage, warned: “New York Republicans are responsible for passing gay marriage. The party will pay a grave price.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins also blamed Republicans saying that “while it was the Democrats who were pushing this agenda, it is the Republicans in the NY Senate who ultimately allowed this to happen.”

New York Bishop Mark Sisk told the Episcopal News Service he welcomed the legislation, saying: “It was with thanksgiving and joy that I received the news of the New York State legislature’s affirmative action on the Marriage Equality legislation that it had been debating with such intensity.

“The legislation, as enacted, appears to be closely aligned with the long-standing views of this Diocese that the civil rights of all people should be respected equally before the law.

“The legislature’s action in broadening the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions has to do with civil law, as it properly should,” Bishop Sisk noted.

“It does not determine Church teaching about the nature of sacraments. That is our continuing work. However, nothing in the unfinished nature of that work should cause us to hesitate to give our most profound thanks for the step that has been taken in affording equal civil rights for our brothers and sisters,” the Bishop said.

Central Africa clarifies provincial position on homosexuality: The Church of England Newspaper, June 10, 2011 June 10, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Archbishop Albert Chama

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Homosexual relations are a sin, the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Central Africa said last week, releasing a statement clarifying the province’s stand on the issue dividing the Anglican Communion.

Archbishop Albert Chama also said that his church’s continued interaction with those portions of the Anglican Communion that have sought to normalize same-sex relations should not be construed to mean the Central African church had endorsed the innovation.

Homosexuality has been a divisive political and ecclesial issue in Central Africa.  The former bishop of Harare, Dr. Nolbert Kunonga has charged the province with being ‘soft’ on homosexuality, and has used the controversies within the Anglican Communion to his advantage in the property disputes with the province.  In neighboring Zambia and Malawi, western NGO’s and overseas governments have also pressed for the reform of sodomy laws criminalizing “unnatural vice.”

However, the pressure to reform Central African criminal and civil codes to bring it in line with modern European sensibilities has been heavy handed at times, and has caused a backlash by church and government leaders resentful of the encroachment upon their national sovereignties.

Central Africa has also come under pressure from other Anglican African provinces for its decision to keep open its links to the American Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada, and for an explanation of the unofficial statement released by one bishop on behalf of the entire province after the All-Africa bishops meeting in Entebbe that chastised the wider African church for its break with the Episcopal Church.

In his June 4 statement, Archbishop Chama stated he wanted to make the province’s stance on homosexual conduct clear, and that the province did not condone homosexuality.

Central Africa had also “made it very clear even to churches around the world that we interact with, that if there are any members or priests that practice homosexuality, they should keep them away from us,” he said.

There would be no change in church teaching on this issue, the archbishop said, according to the Lusaka Times.

Gay unions are ‘God’s will’, Brazilian archbishop says: The Church of England Newspaper, May 27, 2011 p 6. May 28, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage.
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Archbishop Maurício de Andrade

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican leaders in Brazil have divided sharply over that country’s Supreme Court ruling recognizing same-sex unions. On May 5 the Federal Supreme Court (STF) held the right to freedom of expression should be construed to include the choice of sexual conduct, and authorized gay civil unions.

On May 16, the primate of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, (IEAB), Archbishop Maurício de Andrade lauded the decision as an “important advance in our society” for “equality and citizenship.”   The ruling was part of God’s plan for Brazil, he noted, and should be seen as the “gradual and subtle inspiration of the Holy Spirit in transforming our society.”

However, the breakaway Bishop of Recife, Robinson Cavalcani, along with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, denounced the ruling, saying that  reducing sexual conduct to a choice of expression undermines traditional marriage.

The justices of the STF voted 10 to zero to give legal sanction to gay civil unions.  The decision grants gay couples many of the rights enjoyed by married couples, including pension benefits and inheritance.   ”The freedom to pursue one’s own sexuality is part of an individual’s freedom of expression,” said Justice Carlos Ayres Britto, the author of the ruling, in explaining the decision.

The ruling has raised legal as well as moral qualms in South America’s largest country.  Brazil’s constitution does not touch upon the subject and the ruling is drawn from language governing free speech and expression.  It has also been denounced as anti-democratic as it takes the issue out of the hands of legislators.

Archbishop Andrade said the ruling “poses serious challenges to all Christians of all churches because it requires openness to recognize that [homosexual] relationships are part of the way of being of the society and of the human nature.”

Bishop Cavalcanti, however, sharply denounced the decision. “Immorality was legalized. Sin was legalized. Brazil is in mourning.”

The evangelical leader predicted the “next step is the criminalization of heterosexuals who do not recognize the normalcy of homosexuality.”  He noted that an act pending before the Brazilian Senate, PLC 122, seeks to curtail freedom of religion and freedom of speech of those who see homosexual conduct as sinful in deference to the right of freedom of expression to those who promote it as a moral good.

However, Bishop Cavalcanti stated the new ruling would not change church teaching, and he called Evangelicals and Anglicans across Brazil to remain faithful to Scripture and to the moral teachings of the church.

Bishop calls for decriminalisation of homosexuality: The Church of England Newspaper, April 14, 2011 April 14, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Uganda, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A former Ugandan bishop has urged a UN panel in New York to press for the decriminalization of homosexuality to help fight the HIV/AIDs epidemic.

On April 8, Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo told the panel the “criminalisation of homosexuality remains the most significant barrier” to halting the spread of the disease.  “We need to ask if our laws or beliefs help or prevent the spread of HIV and hinder or support families caring for loved ones,” the bishop said according to press accounts of the gathering.

The one-time Church of Uganda bishop is not the sole African Anglican voice urging moderation of the continent’s sodomy laws, with bishops in Central, South, East and West African urging a rethink.  In March, Bishop Brighton Malasa of Upper Shire, Malawi urged caution over government calls to criminalize lesbian behavior, while the Church of Uganda and the Church of Burundi last year quietly lobbied their governments against introducing harsher regulations governing homosexual conduct.

A controversial figure within the African Church, Bishop Ssenyonjo has been a public advocate for reforming Uganda’s sodomy laws, and changing the Church of Uganda’s teachings on homosexuality.

Supporters of Bishop Ssenyonjo, who retired as the second Bishop of West Buganda in 1999, have often brought him to the US and UK to campaign for gay rights causes.  In 2010 the bishop participated in the consecration of the suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool—the Episcopal Church’s second ‘gay’ bishop.

However, reports on the bishop’s background provided by his partisans have misstated his status, the Church of Uganda tells The Church of England Newspaper.  Claims the bishop was deposed in 2007 for his support for the gay community or his association with gay pressure groups are false, the church notes.

Bishop Ssenyonjo was deposed on Jan 17, 2007 by the Church of Uganda after he took part in the consecration as bishop of a former Anglican priest for the independent Charismatic Church of Uganda, the Ugandan provincial secretary told CEN.

“One of the co-consecrators was another deposed Uganda Bishop, the former bishop of North Mbale. He had been deposed because he took a second wife. So, Ssenyonjo was not deposed because of his association” with gay advocacy groups, the spokesman said, but for having conferred episcopal orders upon a priest in a church not in communion with the Church of Uganda.

Southern African bishops chided for their indecision on gay blessings: The Church of England Newspaper, March 25, 2011 p 8. March 25, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Southern Africa House of Bishops

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Evangelical leaders in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa have called upon the church’s Synod of Bishops to clarify their ambiguous statements on human sexuality.

On March 17, the Fellowship of Confession Anglicans (FCA) in South Africa published an open letter on the internet, making a “plea for clarity on the position and teaching of our faith” in light of bishops’ February pastoral letter.

At the close of their Feb 7-12 meeting in Natal, the Southern African bishops deferred taking action on adopting guidelines for the blessing of same-sex unions, citing legal difficulties and theological divisions within their ranks.

A draft document entitled “Pastoral Guidelines in Response to Civil Unions” was reviewed by the bishops at their Sept 2010 meeting and distributed to the dioceses.  The February 2011 meeting, however, stated the bishops were not able to approve the document.  “It is difficult to give blanket guidelines [on same-sex blessings] because the position is starkly at variance in the legal systems of the seven countries where we work.”

“We continue to work on creating guidelines in several areas of difficulty raised by the issue of civil unions,” the bishops said—which are legal in South Africa, but illegal in the six other nations in the province.

The FCA called upon the bishops to be faithful to their mission to “guard the faith.”

By failing to make a clear statement, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa appeared to have aligned itself “with the dying (revisionist and liberal) minority” within the Anglican Communion and failed to heed “seriously the concerns of the orthodox majority.”

“Sexuality is the touchstone in this Anglican fragmentation,” the FCA said.

However, the issue is not “sexuality per se” but a “rebellion against our creator and his ways which he gives to us” as found in Scripture.  Sexuality was not a dividing issue in itself, “but a leadership in the church which chooses to ‘play at being god’ is a much more serious issue,” they said.

Offering encouragement to people to engage in behavior “which is unacceptable to God (which the Bible describes as sin) is not a pastoral role that God can endorse,” the FCA said, adding that they were concerned the Southern African bishops “find it hard to call sin, sin.  We are answerable to God not to a human-centred ideology.”

The February bishops’ statement displayed a failure of “godly pastoral leadership,” the FCA said.

“It matters not what the legal position may be in the seven states in which our Province is represented. God’s standards call all laws into question” that do not conform to his word, the FCA said, urging their bishops to take their place with the majority of the Anglican Communion against unbelief and error.

Church call for caution over Malawi sodomy laws: The Church of England Newspaper, March 11, 2011 p 8. March 14, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Bishop Brighton Malasa of Upper Shire, Malawi

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in Malawi are divided over a new law criminalizing same-sex relations between women.

The Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) has endorsed the bill introduced by President Bingu wa Mutharika and adopted by parliament last month which adds same-sex relations to women to the list of acts forbidden by the country’s sodomy laws. However Anglican leaders have warned the law will impact the country’s war on HIV/AIDS, and that criminalizing and stigmatizing homosexual acts is not the ‘Christian’ way to deal with the issue.

Lutheran Bishop Joseph Bvumbe, chairman of the MCC, told reporters homosexual practices “threaten the family unit” and contradicted “Malawi’s rich traditions, culture and its spirituality as a God fearing nation.”

“We uphold the current Penal Code provisions that criminalise homosexual acts and or practices, even though they aim to bring about reform, the Church should treat practicing and self-affirming homosexuals as sinners just as any other persons engaged in the persistent, unrepentant acts of sin,” the MCC said.

Homosexuals should be “loved and ministered to. The church therefore must accompany the homosexuals in their struggle to transform their lives,” the MCC statement noted.

However, the Anglican Bishop of Upper Shire, the Rt. Rev. Brighton Malasa urged a more “generous pastoral response” towards homosexuals.  “Let us invite gays and lesbians, because they are sinners, unto Christ; let us not chase them away to perish” he told a Malawi newspaper.

In a speech to religious leaders ministering to groups at risk for HIV/AIDS, Bishop Malaso said the church should not support “finger-pointing, condemnation and discrimination.”

The bishop told The Church of England Newspaper the church’s mission was “to embrace sinners, assist them to reform and move forward. The church should be seen providing counselling and total pastoral care to all, more especially in this time, when HIV and AIDS is so high and if we are to curb the challenges of the same, we need to fight HIV holistically, without leaving out anyone.”

Bishop Malasa also upheld the Anglican Communion’s formal stance on homosexuality as encapsulated at the 1998 Lambeth Conference in Resolution 1.10, which assured “homosexual persons” that they “are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ,” but reaffirmed “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.”

“I 100 per cent support the stand taken by the Anglican Bishops at the Lambeth Conference 1998 and believe the church should accompany all to salvation,” Bishop Malasa told CEN.

Anti-discrimination laws not binding on church agencies, court rules: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 7, 2011 p 6. January 11, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Politics.
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Peter Kell of Anglicare

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in Sydney have applauded a tribunal ruling that places freedom of conscience above state anti-discrimination laws.

Last month the New South Wales Administrative Decisions Tribunal held that a foster care agency affiliated with the Wesley Mission was exempt from the Anti-Discrimination Act and could refuse to accept homosexual couples as foster parents.

The decision comes over a year after the same tribunal ordered the foster care agency to pay a £5500 fine and amend its selection criteria so as not to discriminate against homosexuals.

The Wesley Mission’s foster care arm, Wesley Dalmar Services, appealed the decision and on Nov 1, 2009 an appeals panel held the agency was not obligated to accept a gay couple as foster parents.  Presiding Magistrate Nancy Hennessy instructed the lower court to take into account the religious sensibilities of Wesleyanism, and whether the agency would be obligated to reject  same sex couples in order to be faithful to its beliefs.

In its Dec 27, 2010 decision the tribunal conceded it was obligated to grant the exemption as the language of the Act permitted church affiliated agencies to receive government payments for foster care, while claiming an exemption from the obligation of placing children for foster care with same sex couples.

In its ruling the tribunal commented the grounds for requesting a religious exemption were “singularly undemanding” and noted that “this may be a matter which calls for the attention of parliament.”

However, a spokesman for the NSW Attorney-General said there were no plans to review the Act as the legislation was an appropriate middle ground between the claims of religious freedom and freedom from discrimination.

Cardinal George Pell welcomed the decision and said churches must be able to choose whom they wanted to use in the provision of services.  A spokesman for the Diocese of Sydney told the Church of England Newspaper that it also welcomed the ruling.

The diocesan-affiliated social service agency, Anglicare Sydney, had also lobbied the government last year to reject an amendment to the Adoption Act that would permit the adoption of children by same sex couples.

In a twelve-point statement summarizing its views, Anglican CEO Peter Kell argued that gay adoptions were not in the best interest of children and that there was not a “strong need” to change the law, as there was “no shortage in the supply of suitable parents willing to adopt children.”

Mr. Kell stated that “no adult has the right to adopt a child” and that the appeal to anti-discrimination laws by gay adoption and fostering advocates put the “rights of adults ahead of children.”

“Childrens rights are precious – they should never be a political football for others,” he observed in a statement published on the diocesan website.

NSW did amend the Adoption Act in 2010 and allowed gay couples to legally adopt children, but allowed church adoption agencies the right to refuse to provide services to gay couples without breaching anti-discrimination laws.

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