Queer in Faith: Some Links

I can say clearly that with Hans Kung I am no longer a Roman Catholic — I am a universal Christian catholic in union with the Holy Spirit. I belong to that union of believers who practice the way of Jesus or Nazareth.

Tom McMahon, San Jose, Ca. (15/09/09)

Tom-McMahon at 24 Tom McMahon entered a minor seminary aged just 13. At the time this picture was taken:

“I am 24 years old when this picture was taken, ripe for ordination after 12 years of monastic life in St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, CA. I am as innocent sexually as the day I virginally entered seminary at age 13, pre-puberty. I excelled at sports burning up my newly-discovered testosterone and girls were out of bounds; 60 years later I meet old friends at clerical funerals and some say “you were the catcher on the baseball team when I was in seminary”. Would that I be remembered for more than that six decades later. The boy who entered seminary at 13 was still alive in me when I was ordained at age 25. An innocent boy, even if he wears a Roman collar …..”

Many years later, feeling dehumanised (his word) by the experience of compulsory celibacy, he followed so many other priests out of the presbytery and into marriage. Now over 80, he writes a moving series of reflections on the history of priesthood and his experience of it. Informed by his training in psychology, he uses the series title “The Psychology of Priesthood.” The quotation introducing this post comes at the end of part 11, the one beneath the picture comes from the latest post, part 16.) Unlike Tom, I have never been a priest, although the Christian Brothers once tried to persuade me to enter the minor seminary at a ridiculously young age. (I am eternally grateful that my father would not hear of it). Like Tom, I am a cradle Catholic, and continue to call myself catholic, worshipping in two Catholic parishes, and actively involved in the Soho Masses. I recognise and value the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, but do not accept that teaching authority equates with legislative authority. While I dissent on some specific matters, this is a right protected by standard teaching. I insist on my inclusion by virtue of baptism and participation in the Catholic communion, but also because “catholic” at its most basic level simply means “universal”. While I will not walk away to join another denomination, I feel less and less committed to the “Roman” as opposed to the “catholic” church. As I have been writing here over the months, I have frequently referred to and recommended other lesbian and gay Catholic bloggers. However, I have become increasingly convinced that if we as a group are to make headway in our search for justice, we need to recognise that there are others with whom we should be making alliances: women in the Catholic Church, the global church in their struggles, and other queer Christians. In this spirit, I have been restructuring my web links in the side bar (which were long overdue for a tidy up), removing the distinction between Catholic and other Christian that I misguidedly imposed in the beginning. I have also added some links from other traditions, and hope to add still more. For now, I would like to introduce you (briefly) to some sites that I have found particularly interesting, for one reason or another. (All of these are by or about lesbian, gay or transgender people, but not all have this as their main focus). Audacious Deviant is subtitled “A gay Christian working towards audacity”, from which one might expect something way out, provocatively queer and outrageous. However it is (superficially) very traditional. Its great strength is the brilliant use of artwork to illustrate reflections on Scripture , faith – and gay. He does not post often, but when he does, it is well worth reading, or just looking at. Back in the summer, at the time of the welcome but controversial moves toward inclusion by the Episcopalians and ECLA, he wrote:

When people of good faith disagree with one another, it troubles me, but when pain is inflicted – even be it self-inflicted pain, I am deeply troubled. This is why I was so deeply touched by the words of ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson to their convention following the strongly affirmative vote. He said: “We finally meet one another not in our agreements or our disagreements, but at the foot of the cross, where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ.”

This he illustrated with three moving depictions in art of the crucifixion. Have a look at “One and Only Noble Tree

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Counterlight’s Peculiars is another site with a strong emphasis on art. This time though, it is his own art, and other modern artists rather than the traditional, and with much more activist rather than liturgical subject matter. Yesterday’s post featured his own series of paintings on the moving story of David Wojnarowicz. Read it, and admire the pictures, at The Passion of David Wojnarowicz.

David wojnarowicz

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Hell’s teeth (“From the Sanguine Side of Life”) is by a South African Anglican gay man, writing about his life in Cape Town, with all that it throws up in front of him. This ranges from the serious (SA politics and race relations, gay adoption: see for example, “What were we thinking?” on resistance to military conscription by SA White males, 25 years ago), and the religious, through the simple pleasures (of cooking, of life in Cape Town), and some just plain quirky (“Me, Passing Through Oudtshoorn). Some of us in the North might find it too parochial – but if so, just enjoy the pictures. For this ex-Capetonian, I drool just looking at this masthead: Hells teeth Masthead

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I’m Christian. I’m Gay. Deal With It! Rev David Eck Ashville introduces himself as “I’m an ordained ELCA pastor who serves an amazing church and has been with my partner, Gary for 16 years.” No pussyfooting about then – nor in the title of the blog. (I also like the actual web address – “Jesus Loves Gays”. The blog description is equally clear:

“I’m not here to argue. I’m simply sharing my faith story as well as my observations about the Bible, spirituality, the world, and LGBT issues. If you don’t like it, then DON’T READ MY BLOG!! If you’re a LGBT person or a straight ally who has been searching for a safe place to talk, then WELCOME!!”

What more is there to say? This one goes directly to the heart of the issues, coming at it from the three sides that matter – Scripture, formal theology and personal experience. In “Hate Mail he reflects on the Gospel message of love, contrasting it with the hatred that so many of us experience at the hands of the Churches – even from some of our parents:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” [John 13:34-35, NRSV] In John Shelby Spong’s book “The Sins of Scripture,” he shares a powerful story about two Christian parents whose hatred for homosexuals became a stumbling block in their ability to love their son. It’s a hard story for us to hear so if you’re sensitive to these kinds of things, then read no further. (To read more, go here

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Kittredge Cherry has an entire portfolio of linked sites. Jesus in Love (blog), Jesus in Love (website), as well as a Newsletter Archive, Videos, Image archive, Gift Shop, Book Store, and Media Room. She writes on many matters of faith and sexuality, but is particularly good at marking topical events (Equality March, Coming out Day, and remembering our gay saints.) I also like to note the saints, but she’s better than I am at getting posts up on the appropriate day. She also doesn’t shy away from including our modern gay saints, which I have thought of doing, but have not done yet. Take a look at Fr Mychal Judge, or at “Matthew Shephard , Modern Gay Martyr” (which also shows her topicality, with the passage of hate crimes legislation).

Shepard was a 21-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming at the time of his death. He was brutally attacked near Laramie, Wyoming, on Oct. 6-7, 1998 by two men who later claimed that they were driven temporarily insane by “gay panic” due to Shepard’s alleged sexual advances. Shepard was beaten and left to die. The officer who found him said that he was covered with blood — except for the white streaks left by his tears. Father William Hart McNichols created a striking icon based on his report.

(The series on Gay Saints, easily selected by a sidebar logo, is worth exploring just for the magnificent icons by Fr McNichols.)

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Queermergent comes from an evangelical / born again tradition. Adele writes of her background and journey:

I have been a part of the Emergent conversation both in the UK and the USA for the past 10 or so years. After years of white-knuckling and repressing my sexuality through a Religious Right conservatism, charismatic, fundamentalist Christianity that lived by literal interpretations of the Bible in dogmatic ways, Reparative Therapy and ex-gay ministries, where the mantra became, “Pray Away the Gay”, and years of depression and suicidal tendencies, i FINALLY came to terms with my sexuality and G-D. Through a very long journey with many peaks and valleys, i decided, through much counsel and prayer that reconciling my same-sex attractions and my Christian faith was a reality where i could exist.

A great feature of Queermergent is that it is not just Adele writing, but a whole team, some as regular contributors, some as guests. Here is a guest post by Aideen:

“When Queers Pray

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me, and I in you, you will produce much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

What if…queers were to start praying and interceding en-masse?
What if…God has a really cool, white-hot purpose for the LGBT community?
What if…Martin Luther was right when he said that “God does nothing except in response to believing prayer”?
What if…we are supposed to partner with God through prayer in order to release His power?
What if…God knows our needs and knows all about the injustices queer people suffer, but won’t do anything until we start praying earnestly about it?

What if…..we took Aideen seriously, and started doing it?

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Straight, Not Narrow , just as the name implies is not a “gay” site, but a gay ally – and all the more welcome for that.

“To bridge the gap that exists in the body of Christ, helping straight people accept and affirm their GLBT brothers and sisters, promoting healing in the GLBT community for pain that has been inflicted upon them by the Church and directing them toward a closer relationship with Christ.

On their site, Jim and Brenda Johnson post frequent (daily?) Scripture readings, news reports, music and video clips, networking information and resource material – mostly dealing with services to or by lesbian and gay communities worldwide. The sheer quantity of material is impressive – but so is the range and relevance. “Parents Enquiry North East” is an example from their “Helping Hands” networking / resource series, publicising useful services, this time to parents of LGBT children on the other side of the Atlantic (from them, not from me!). Thanks to them both.

Parents Enquiry North East is a voluntary organisation offering support to parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered sons and daughters in North East England. Confidential helplines are operated by parents. We are not counsellors but have been through the experience of learning to understand and support our own gay children. Calls are welcomed at any reasonable hour. A support group is held every other month, details on request. One to One meetings can be arranged if required. A quarterly newsletter is produced. Click here to find out more.

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Candace Chellew-Hodge is the daughter of a Baptist pastor, who wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps . She was able to do so by transferring to the United Congregational Church and was duly ordained. In addition to her own congregation on the ground, she is also a writer on matters of LGBT religion (see “Bullet-Proof Faith”), and has an active internet – based ministry, contributing to numerous websites and e-zines, as well as her own impressive website, Whosever”. From her entry page:

Light a Candle for Peace

“For if every man were to regard the persons of others as his own person, who would inflict pain and injury on others? If they regarded the homes of others as their own homes, who would rob the homes of others? Thus in that case there would be no brigands and robbers. If the princes regarded other countries as their own, who would wage war on other countries? This in that case there would be no more war.”

– Hillel, first century A.D. rabbi

I know I have overlooked some – if that includes you, I apologise.  I will add the omissions as I remember them.

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8 comments for “Queer in Faith: Some Links

  1. October 27, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    Wonderful post! It’s so refreshing to see all of these eclectic alternative visions and to know how much is happening outside the stuffy confines of the formal church. Inspiring, really. I was also very charmed by the Divine Mercy site you linked to in a previous post – 1 deacon, 1 priest and 1 ‘bishop’ (John Reid) who seems to have ‘bishoped’ himself, which seems fine to me if his little community is to prosper and flower. Signs of the Spirit everywhere. Of course, it still leaves unresolved the tension between the need for some kind of unity with the overall great tradition of Catholicism and the danger of fragmentation. But I guess this is a tension we simply have to live with for the time being. Signs of hope.

    • queeringthechurch
      October 28, 2009 at 7:51 am

      I’m glad you like it, Jayden. Some sort of unity in the diversity would be great, if we could find it. I still wonder whether Benedict’s current drawing together of the conservative strands in some overarching umbrella might lead in time to a comparable process for other, more progressive strands, forcing the acceptance of greater diversity of opinion and loosening of doctrinal control. This is unlikely to be his intention, but who knows how the Spirit could subvert the process?

  2. October 28, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    THANK YOU for the shout out to Queermergent! Much appreciated! Let me know if you’d ever like to contribute to the blog!

    Warmest Regards,
    Adele

    • queeringthechurch
      October 28, 2009 at 4:48 pm

      It was great pleasure, Adele, to draw attention to the great work you are doing. I’m impressed with the way you have turned your blog into a real collaborative effort – something a few of my associates and I are wanting to do too.

      I would be delighted to contribute to your site as well. We come from very different faith backgrounds – but that could be a very good reason to exchange thoughts. I’ll have another look at Queermergent, and give some thought to what might be both fresh and appropriate, than get back to you.

      Thanks, and warm regards to you too.

      Terence

      • October 28, 2009 at 7:26 pm

        Terence,

        It’s funny, i grew up with a Presbyterian mother and Jewish , non-practicing father. His parents put me in Catholic school beginning in 5th grade. i went all the way through undergraduate college in Catholic schools and felt very enriched by them.

        One of my dear friends, Padraig, who is from Ireland and now lives in Belfast, is Catholic and gay. He has contributed to Queermergent. i think dialogue/conversation between queers of any faith and no faith are so important. Fostering support, understanding, and learning is so important.

        i so look forward to your thoughts and contributions. Thanks for your kind and encouraging words.

        BTW, how did you come across Queermergent? i also have a personal blog where i write about faith, politics, queer issues and other random things i wish to rant or muse about! Feel free to check that out as well! http://www.existentialpunk.com/

        Pax,
        Adele

  3. Rogerdgford
    October 28, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    I find it increasingly difficult to justify present denominational divisions. As a liberal minded and gay Roman Catholic, I share far more in faith with my liberal Andlican and Methodist friends than I do with conservative Roman Catholics. Indeed, some of my more conservative fellow Catholics do not even seem to believe in the same God as I do. I really do hope that we may be heading for new alignments in God’s universal church, with the liberal elements of all groupings coming together to forget differences, and to celebrate all that is good in God’s creative purpose, no matter how diverse.

    • queeringthechurch
      October 28, 2009 at 11:31 pm

      Roger, one of the enduring memories of catechism lessons in primary school is of the good sisters dismissing many difficult questions as “It’s a mystery”. They were right – the exact nature of God is a mystery beyond our full understanding. I get weary of heated doctrinal disputes over the supposedly “correct” interpretations of scripture or of theology. I am far more interested, now more than ever, in simply hearing other perspectives to see what I can learn from them.

      What I find in these links is a great deal of freshness and sincerity about issues that concern many of us. If I don’t always agree with their theology, the same can most assuredly be said of many Catholics, as you point out. To repeat part of Jayden’s comment earlier,

      It’s so refreshing to see all of these eclectic alternative visions and to know how much is happening outside the stuffy confines of the formal church. Inspirin

      g, really.

  4. Kittredge Cherry
    October 27, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I thought I knew every queer Christian blog, but more keep arising all the time. Audacious Deviant is definitely new to me, and I’ll be combing through the rest of this post for more unknown treasures. Thank you for your kind and detailed description of my work at Jesus in Love and related websites.

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