Vatican Documents “Value of the Family” Applicable to ALL Families.

One moving part of the Vatican working document for the October family synod, waxes lyrical about the value and importance of “family”. By their definition, that is assumed to be a family of one dad, one mom, and kids. But consider: what, in this song of praise for family, could not apply equally to less conventional families (just as Pope Benedict’s praise of families a few years ago was also equally applicable to all families).

gay family

The Family, the Person and Society

31. The family is acknowledged in the People of God to be an invaluable asset, the natural setting in which life grows and develops and a school of humanity, love and hope for society. The family continues to be the privileged place in which Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the person. In addition to commonly affirming these basic facts, the great majority of respondents agree that the family has the potential of being this privileged place, despite their indicating, and often explicitly recounting, the worrisome difference between the forms of the family in today’s world and Church’s teaching in this regard. Real-life situations, stories and multiple trials demonstrate that the family is experiencing very difficult times, requiring the Church’s compassion and understanding in offering guidance to families “as they are” and, from this point of departure, proclaim the Gospel of the Family in response to their specific needs.

Bishops’ Depressing Document on Marriage: Glimmers of Hope

The news last year that Pope Francis had called an extraordinary synod of bishops to discuss marriage and family seemed to offer serious hope – even more so when that announcement was followed by a global consultation, to seek out lay views. When some bishops’ conferences later released summaries of the results for their countries, these generally confirmed what in practice is already well known, from secular surveys: most Catholics simply do not agree with Church teaching on most matters of sexual ethics (most spectacularly so on contraception). When the church as a whole disagrees by such a wide margin, it should surely be a sound indication that something is wrong. Sadly, after two recent Vatican reports, one by the International Theological Commission on the important concept of the “sensus fidelium”, and a second by a team of bishops who have prepared a working document in preparation for the synod, the outlook is less promising.


Gay Marriage Confirmed – for UTAH! (also Indiana)

In a great day for same – sex marriage in the USA, two major court decisions, including the first circuit court ruling confirming that state bans on same – sex marriage are unconstitutional  In Colorado, the 10th circuit has confirmed a lower court decision striking down the ban in Utah. This will impact pending decisions in other states in the 10th circuit:  Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. In Indiana, same – sex couples can begin marrying immediately, after a federal judge ruled Wednesday that Indiana’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, a technical decision in the 10th circuit leaving in place that “heightened scrutiny” must apply in matters affecting LGBT discrimination, greatly improves the chances of state bans being overturned in Nevada, Montana and Arizona.

From an NCLR Press Release:

Tenth Circuit Rules in Favor of the Freedom to Marry in Utah
Plaintiffs hold Press Conference Set for Noon Today in Utah

(Denver, CO, June 25, 2014)—In a landmark decision today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that Utah’s ban on the freedom to marry for same-sex couples violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.    

Today’s decision in Kitchen v. Herbert is the first federal appellate court ruling in a freedom to marry case since the United States Supreme Court ruled in June 2013 that the federal government must recognize the marriages of same-sex couples.

The case was brought by Utah couples Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge, and Karen Archer and Kate Call. On December 20, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled that Utah’s laws denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. More than 1,000 same-sex couples married in Utah in the days following the ruling. Utah appealed the ruling to the Tenth Circuit, which heard oral argument in the case on April 10, 2014.

The couples are represented by the Salt Lake City law firm of Magleby & Greenwood, P.C. and by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). Peggy Tomsic of Magleby & Greenwood presented oral argument on behalf of the plaintiff couples.

Said Tomsic: “Today’s decision by the Tenth Circuit affirms the fundamental principles of equality and fairness and the common humanity of gay and lesbian people.  As the Court recognized, these families are part of Utah’s community, and equal protection requires that they be given the same legal protections and respect as other families in this state.  The Court’s ruling is a victory not only for the courageous couples who brought this case, but for our entire state and every state within the Tenth Circuit.”

Added Kitchen: “We are overjoyed by the court’s decision, which means so much to us, our family, and everyone who believes in justice and fairness. Since the lawsuit was filed last year, we have received so much support from so many people in our state, and we are now looking forward to the day when we will finally be married.”

NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell stated: “Today’s ruling marks the first time a federal court of appeals has ruled that excluding same-sex couples from the freedom to marry is unconstitutional. The Court makes clear that the promise of equality embedded in our revered U.S. Constitution includes the lives and loves of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. That recognition marks an indelible milestone in our nation’s journey to full inclusion—and one that will undoubtedly influence other courts in the months to come.”


40 Years In the Desert: Is the Promised Land in Sight?

From the opening of the first reading for the feast of Corpus Christi, Year A (Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14B-16A)

Moses said to the people:
“Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God,
has directed all your journeying in the desert,
so as to test you by affliction
and find out whether or not it was your intention
to keep his commandments. 

-V 2


Queer readings of the Bible sometimes emphasise the story of Exodus, how the Israelites were led out of Egypt, the land of bondage, and into the promised land – just as the american civil rights movement did, years ago. However, it is perhaps more relevant, to recall that the Israelites’ deliverance was not an event, but a journey: the crossing of the Red Sea was followed by 40 years’ wandering in the desert, before the entry into the promised.

By a wonderful piece of timing, the US Presbyterians’ votes this week to permit same – sex weddings in at least some of their churches, and to support the global struggles against LGBT persecution, came on the same day that the Washington “March4Marriage” which was so strenuoulsy promoted by the religious right drew an response that was positively underwhelming. According to a facebook post at More Light Presbyterians on the day of the vote, General Assembly 221, which took these historic decisions, also marked a notable 40th anniversary of their own. It’s now 40 years since the first Presbyterian minister came out, very publicly, at a General Assembly

From the facebook post:

Today’s votes come 40 years after Rev. David Bailey Sindt showed up at G.A. with a sign, “Is anyone else out there Gay?” From that came PLGC / MLP. Today the hall was awash with rainbows, and the Spirit was at work. Thank you, David Sindt!

Actually, it’s 41 years. This was in fact in 1973, not 1974, but then biblical numbers are seldom meant to be taken precisely literally. GA 221 came also in the midst of Pride month, June – From a looser reading of “40 years”, we can also think back to Stonewall (1969, 45 years ago), or  to Rev James Stoll, the first ordained pastor to come out publicly as gay a few,moths after Stonewall, or to Rev Troy Perry, who founded the Metropolitan Community Church the year before that, or to Canon Derrick Sherwin Bailey, ,who in 1955 published “Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition”, the first notable book to challenge the traditional assumptions that the bible and homosexuality are in obvious conflict.

Whether we count it as 40 years, or half a century, it’s remarkable how far we’ve come, during these years of wandering in the desert of exclusion, in our journey of escape from the slavery of heteronormativity, and its attempts to force us to deny the truth of our sexual or gender natures, and our loves. Consider the fruits of these single pioneers:

  • Instead of a single pioneer at at General Assembly 1963, GA 2014 was “awash with rainbows”.
  • The year after James Stoll came out, the Unitarian Universalists passed the world’s first ever gay rights resolution, and later became the first church, anywhere, to conduct same – sex weddings – years before these could be recognized in law.
  • MCC, the church that Troy Perry founded with a small group in his living room, now has well – established congregations across the world.
  • Canon Bailey’s cautious book questioning the traditional Biblical interpretation on homosexuality, has been followed by what has become a flood of new titles, from every faith tradition, and moving from challenging the clobber texts, to celebrating LGBT figures in the Bible, to finding queer readings of a wide range of biblical texts (“The Queer Bible Commentary” devotes a chapter to every single book of the bible, except only the minor prophets, who share a chapter). 
  • From near invisibility in church, gay, lesbian and trans people are now serving openly as ministers in a wide range of denominations, in some cases even as bishops, moderators, and other leadership positions.

From widespread assumptions that the only unions that deserved celebration in church were marriages of different – sex couples, there are now many denominations that conduct either gay weddings, or confer blessings on same – sex couples. Many of those that do not, are visibly moving in that direction, with formal study groups of church commissions investigating.

For just about every major church grouping, there are signs of movement, either actively towards full LGBT inclusion, or at least away from previously harsh rhetoric and clear exclusion. Just as the start of our Exodus journey cannot be dated precisely to a single event, PCUSA’s three decisions this week do no mark the end of 40 years’ wandering in the desert of exclusion. There are many, many staging posts still to reach. But if we have not yet entered the promised land of full inclusion in church, we can at least begin to see it, or imagine it, in the distance.

Let us now read, and reflect on, today’s full reading from Deuteronomy:

Moses said to the people:
“Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God,
has directed all your journeying in the desert,
so as to test you by affliction
and find out whether or not it was your intention
to keep his commandments. 
He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger,
and then fed you with manna,
a food unknown to you and your fathers,
in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.

“Do not forget the LORD, your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
that place of slavery;
who guided you through the vast and terrible desert
with its saraph serpents and scorpions,
its parched and waterless ground;
who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock
and fed you in the desert with manna,
a food unknown to your fathers.”

Related posts:

Blessed Are the Queer in Faith – for They Shall Inherit the Earth

British Conference on Gender, Sexuality and Formation

EMBODIED  MINISTRY : gender, sexuality and formation is a ground-breaking conference for all involved in theological education and ministerial formation to explore and reflect on questions of gender and sexuality in recruitment, policy, training, formation, and pastoral encounters.

Ripon College Chapel, interior

Interior of the award – winning chapel at Ripon College, where the conference will be held



The Conference is sponsored by the UK-based Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality, a unique network of Christians from across a wide spectrum of Church backgrounds, and takes place at Ripon College Cuddesdon, near Oxford, 9-10 July 2014. The conference will pick up the challenge in many recent reports into sexual abuse and the Churches, of a profound fault-line in the recruitment, training, and on-going formation of clergy and other pastoral workers. It will aim to equip theological educators, others involved in policy and formation, including candidates for ordained and lay ministry, to respond to realities of gender, sexuality, faith and belief. Participants are drawn from most major Christian traditions in the UK & Ireland.

Workshop topics include 50 Shades of Grace: The Crafting of Sexual WisdomSod ‘em, Sod ‘em, like there’s no Gomorrah: Comparing Sexualities Education for Teachers, Doctors & Clergy in the UK; Queering Spiritual Directionand Redeeming Gender

A wide range of other sessions will deal with trans and intersex experience including gender transition; issues for parents and families; integrating gender, prayer, worship, and spirituality; and encountering God in sexual dimensions of life including celibacy. Speakers/ facilitators include Christina Beardsley, Brendan Callaghan, Susannah Cornwall, Sharon Ferguson, Trish Fowlie, Carla Grosch-Miller, Bruce A. Kent, Rachel Mann, David Nixon, Martin Pendergast, Nicola Slee, and Adrian Thatcher.


Gay Marriage, Luxembourg (and Europe Update)!

It’s been a while coming, but it’s happened. The parliament of Luxembourg has finally passed a gay marriage and adoption bill that was originally promised way back in 2009. It won’t take effect though, until January 1st 2015.


The land-locked European country’s Chamber of Deputies voted by an overwhelming majority of 56-4 for the law which will be put into force by early next year.

Green MP Viviane Loschetter told the website: “Gay people should have the same rights as heterosexuals.

“With this law, we do not throw overboard all the values of our society.

“All we have done is give equal rights to gay people. We formally recognize a form of relationship that has always existed.”

-more at The Independent

On this Wikipedia map of gay marriage, Europe, Luxembourg is the tiny round blob where Belgium, France and Germany meet. Take a good look at the map as a whole: almost the whole of Western Europe and Scandinavia will have, full marriage equality by 2015. (Finland has promised a vote some time this summer, and the Republic of Ireland Ireland will put it to a referendum in 2015. Both measures should pass easily).

Same_sex_marriage_map_Europe_detailed.svg, June 2014

In Central Europe, full marriage lags, but Germany, Switzerland, Austria Slovenia and Lichtenstein have civil unions. Only Italy still has nothing, but that could change: there’s a strong possibility of civil unions being introduced by their new, young Prime Minister, who has spoken out in favour.

(The nasty red in the East indicates countries where the constitution currently restricts marriage to different sex couples – but just as in US red states, those barriers can also be expected to fall, in time)/

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