Christians and the LGBT community in Madison and around the world

At Grace we are continuing to reflect on ways of making our congregation more open and welcoming of all people in spite of our struggles with the diocesan ban on offering same-sex blessings and Wisconsin’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. A recent article by Doug Erickson told the story of the suicide last fall of Mindy Fabian, a transgender teenager who struggled to find acceptance at her school and a place in the world. It’s a reminder that even in a progressive city like Madison, LGBT persons face adversity, prejudice, and bullying.

But it’s much worse in other places in America and across the world. After lengthy silence, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written to all Anglican primates to remind them of their public “commitment to the pastoral support and care of everyone worldwide, regardless of sexual orientation.” This came while Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is traveling in Africa and after considerable criticism for his silence on the recent laws passed in Uganda and Nigeria that increase criminal penalties on LGBT individuals.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori has also recently reiterated the Episcopal Church’s commitment to LGBT rights:

The Episcopal Church has been clear about our expectation that every member of the LGBT community is entitled to the same respect and dignity as any other member of the human family.  Our advocacy for oppressed minorities has been vocal and sustained.  The current attempts to criminalize LBGT persons and their supporters are the latest in a series, each stage of which has been condemned by this Church, as well as many other religious communities and nations.

Stanley Ntagali, Anglican Archbishop of Uganda has responded to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Uganda bill:

We sincerely hope the Archbishops and governing bodies of the Church of England will step back from the path they have set themselves on so the Church of Uganda will be able to maintain communion with our own Mother Church.

There is supposed to be a screening in February at UW of the documentary God loves Uganda that details the role of colonialism and western missionaries in creating homophobia in Uganda.


Baptism: Learning from the Royal Christening

One of the lovely and important aspects of the establishment of the Church of England is that the sacraments of the Church (marriage and baptism) can become teaching moments for a whole nation. We will be baptizing two babies at Grace on All Saints’ Sunday (November 3) and I was talking yesterday evening with one set of parents, I mentioned today’s baptism. I’m sharing these links because they help us reflect on what baptism means for us, and especially what it means in an increasingly secular society.

The Church of England created a lovely and thoughtful video in which the Archbishop articulates the meaning of the rite:

Cathleen Grossman writes about the decline in numbers of baptism across the US. The numbers of baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention fell to about the same number as in 1948, when the total membership of the denomination was less than half what it is today. In 1970, about 20% of the babies born in the United States were baptized Roman Catholic; today, that has fallen to 8%.

The Guardian notes that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have selected seven of their friends to be Prince George’s godparents and have solicited stories from readers about what their experiences of the relationship.

And from the Church of England, prayers for the Royal Christening (actually, prayers for all baptisms):

Prayer for HRH Prince George

We thank almighty God for the gift of new life.
May God the Father, who has received you by baptism into his Church,
pour upon you the riches of his grace,
that within the company of Christ’s pilgrim people
you may daily be renewed by his anointing Spirit,
and come to the inheritance of the saints in glory.


Prayer for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Faithful and loving God,
bless those who care for this child
and grant them your gifts of love, wisdom and faith.
Pour upon them your healing and reconciling love,
and protect their home from all evil.
Fill them with the light of your presence
and establish them in the joy of your kingdom,
through Jesus Christ our Lord

Troubled over events in Syria?

I am, too.

Once more, the neo-cons, the media, the usual suspects, are beating the drums of war. Our president (remember the Nobel Peace Prize?) seems to be planning “surgical strikes” by way of retaliation and punishment. The consequences of our intervention and the long-term effects on Syria and the wider Middle East, seem not to be taken into consideration.

George Packer summarizes the debate and the futility of it all:

What are you saying?

I don’t know. I had it worked out in my head until we started talking. (Pause.) But we need to do something this time.

Not just to do something.

All right. Not just to do something. But could you do me a favor?

What’s that?

While you’re doing nothing, could you please be unhappy about it?

I am.

Where are the Christian voices speaking out against violence as a solution to violence?

Here’s one:

From Jim Wallis of Sojourners:

It’s natural to feel moral outrage, and there is no doubt that the Assad regime is responsible for more than 100,000 civilian deaths. But a moral compass must guide our moral outrage.

Christians, both who identify as pacifists and those who subscribe to a just war theory, can agree that rigorous criteria and conditions must be applied before there is any decision for military intervention. As part of that process, we must first ask if military strikes are a last resort. Have we exhausted peaceful, multilateral solutions to the conflict? Will military intervention have a reasonable chance of success, and how would we define that success? And does military intervention comply with international and U.S. law.

We also need to consider the unintended consequences of U.S. military action in Syria both at home and abroad. Our involvement could add fuel to the fires of violence that are already consuming the region. It could exacerbate anti-American hatred and produce new recruits for terror attacks against the United States and our allies. Military action could also increase refugee displacement, further risking regional destabilization.

From  Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (speaking in Parliament today):

I feel that any intervention must be effective in terms of preventing any further use of chemical weapons. I’ve not yet heard that that has been adequately demonstrated as likely. That it must effectively deal with those who are promoting the use of chemical weapons. And it must have a third aim which is:  somewhere in the strategy, there must be more chance of a Syria and a Middle East in which there are not millions of refugees and these haunting pictures are not the stuff of our evening viewing.

The Archbishop was participating in something that doesn’t happen in Congress anymore: debate over military action. That debate has slowed down the rush to war but it probably hasn’t prevented it.

A piece by Maryann Cusimano Love examines the proposed action in light of Just War Theory.

Same Sex Blessings conversation continuing in the Diocese of Milwaukee

After a lengthy hiatus (since August, 2012), conversations among clergy in the Diocese of Milwaukee will begin again. My earlier reports on the conversations here and throughout the church are available here.

Two developments since our last conversation may affect how we talk together and what we say. First is the overwhelming acceptance of the provisional rite by Episcopal dioceses. Integrity USA is keeping tabs on that here. By my count, only 18 domestic dioceses have definitely said “no” (Integrity includes the Diocese of Milwaukee in that total). The status of another thirteen is unknown to Integrity.

The second important development is the sea-change in American attitudes toward gay marriage. With a majority of the population now favoring it, legislatures continuing to legalize it, and the Supreme Court’s decisions on Proposition 8 and DOMA this summer, there seems to be something of an inevitability about it.

Today the House of Lords in the UK Parliament were debating a gay marriage bill that is opposed by the Church of England. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby spoke against the bill in this speech. Among his complaints:

It confuses marriage and weddings. It assumes that the rightful desire for equality – to which I’ve referred supportively – must mean uniformity, failing to understand that two things may be equal but different. And as a result it does not do what it sets out to do, my Lords. Schedule 4 distinguishes clearly between same gender and opposite gender marriage, thus not achieving true equality.

Anyone remember “Separate but equal?”

A new spirit blowing in the churches? Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury

It’s all quite disorienting. A new pope who seems reluctant to accept the trappings of his office and reaches out to ordinary people. For example, he is going to break with tradition by celebrating Maundy Thursday in a prison for youthful offenders, washing the feet of prisoners rather than those of retired clergy. A new Archbishop of Canterbury whose style is very different from Rowan Williams and who has in his early statements, tried to reach out to bridge some of the most difficult divisions in the Church of England. Perhaps more important still, the ecumenical gestures that have broken new ground–the presence of the Greek Orthodox patriarch in Rome on March 19, and the wonderful diversity in the enthronement service yesterday.

I’m tempted to see something of a new spirit beginning to blow throughout Christianity from the simple, yet powerful gestures of Pope Francis. No doubt there are rumblings of discontent in the back alleys and hidden corners of the Vatican, but the stultifying, rigid conservatism of the last decades has for a moment at least been sidelined by a spirit of humility, simplicity, and tenderness (the prominence of that word in the Pope’s homily noted by several commentators). That is not to say that the Pope is less conservative doctrinally than his predecessors, but by choosing to focus on other things, he is changing the tone and perception of the Roman Catholic Church in popular culture.

Both leaders face significant problems and it remains to be seen whether they will be any more skillful in negotiating those conflicts than their predecessors. Still, we can hope.

Some commentary on the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury

A little background and summary of the event.

David Sinden links to photos, highlight videos, etc.

His Grace has this to say. An excerpt:

The moment the great oak doors of Canterbury Cathedral were flung open, the fanfare seemed to blow away an entire age of theological aloofness and stuffy ecclesiology. We had a new and vibrant liturgical dialogue, written by the Archbishop himself, explaining the whole meaning of the day to a nation that no longer knows or cares. The interrogation by the Christian child, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, was brief. But its illumination could not have been brighter.

“Who are you and why do you request entry?”

“I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in his service together.”

An interview with the new Archbishop of Canterbury

Colin Coward reflects on another interview with the ABC:

The new Archbishop said: “You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship.” He told the BBC he had “particular friends where I recognise that and am deeply challenged by it”. Justin Welby clearly has gay friends, partnered gay friends, and knows perfectly well that their relationships are equal in love and quality to those of his married friends and of his own marriage.

A new ecumenical spirit?

Pope Francis urges dialogue with Muslims.

His relationship with the Jewish community of Argentina.

His message of greetings to the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

Archbishop of Canterbury is Enthroned

There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith in our world and in this country. Optimism does not come from us, but because to us and to all people Jesus comes and says “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid”. We are called to step out of the comfort of our own traditions and places, and go into the waves, reaching for the hand of Christ. Let us provoke each other to heed the call of Christ, to be clear in our declaration of Christ, committed in prayer to Christ, and we will see a world transformed.

The entire sermon is available is here.

A Prayer for the New Archbishop of Canterbury

God our Father, Lord of all the world,
through your Son you have called us into the fellowship
of your universal Church:
hear our prayer for your faithful people
that in their vocation and ministry
each may be an instrument of your love,
and give to your servant  Justin
the needful gifts of grace;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. from the Church of England.

It’s Justin Welby. Lots of coverage at Thinking Anglicans. Thinking Anglicans has also links to pieces about him. From Andrew Brown, some of the issues facing him, including this on the Anglican Communion:

The Anglican communion is a failure and a delusion since none of its constituent churches are prepared to give it any real power over themselves, no matter how keen they are that it should have power over the other parts. But at a parish or diocesan level the Church of England has numerous and close links abroad, which it needs to nourish. The new archbishop will have to manage a graceful retreat from the pretentious fantasy that the Anglican communion is something like the Roman Catholic church, only nicer and cosier.

He will certainly need our prayers.