Homosexuality

African Bishops Play a Major Role, for First Time, at Contentious Vatican Summit

Image via Rosie Scammell / RNS

The morning prayer that starts each session of a major gathering of Catholic churchmen underway here is an important chance for the 270 cardinals and bishops from around the world to set a meditative tone for what are contentious debates about church teachings on sexuality and family life.

With Pope Francis leading the way, the prelates seated in a large Vatican lecture hall chant the traditional Latin prayers pausing near the end for a brief reflection on the day’s Scripture by one of the bishops at the meeting, known as a synod.

Yet even that moment of spiritual peace is not always a sanctuary from the tensions roiling the three-week meeting that ends Oct. 25.

Churches in Brazil, Peru End Partnerships with Presbyterian Church (USA) Over Gay Marriage

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In another example of Christian discord over gay inclusion, Presbyterian churches in Brazil and Peru have ended their partnerships with the Presbyterian Church (USA) after the U.S. denomination changed its constitution in March to allow clergy to celebrate same-sex marriages.

The loss of the South American partnerships comes on top of the 50 U.S. congregations that formally split from the 1.8 million-member denomination since the church policy changed, PCUSA officials say.

Mexico stopped partnering with the denomination after it allowed the ordination of sexually active gays and lesbians in 2011.

Archbishop Announces High-Level Meeting for Possible Restructuring of Anglican Communion

Westminster Abbey in London. Image via /RNS

“Most Revd Justin Welby is expected to propose the creation of a two-tier Anglican Church, with Lambeth Palace comparing the proposal to that of a married couple ‘moving into separate bedrooms,’ instead of full scale divorce over the issue.

A Lambeth aide is also quoted as saying the Archbishop doesn't want his successor ‘spending vast amounts of time trying to keep people in the boat and never actually rowing it anywhere.’

The Archbishop believes successful discussions may allow him to maintain relations both with the liberal churches of North America, which recognise and encourage gay marriage, and the African churches, led by Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria, who are agitating for the recriminalisation of all homosexual activity in their countries.”

Boy Scouts Chief Says Ban on Gay Scout Leaders Should Be Lifted Nationwide

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A Boy Scout marches with his troop during the Memorial Day parade in Smithtown, N.Y., May 27. Photo via Gregory A. Shemitz / RNS

The president of the Boy Scouts of America on May 21 called for an end to the group’s ban on gay troop leaders.

Robert Gates, a former Secretary of Defense, said in remarks prepared for a meeting of the organization’s leadership that “we cannot ignore the social, political, and judicial changes taking place in our country.”

Gates said he was not proposing a formal rule for the group — yet.

Engaging Both Sides of the Church's Debate on Gays

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From the left: Gabe Lyons, Debra Hirsch, Matthew Vines, Julie Rodgers, David Gushee, Dan Kimball. Parker Young Photography / RNS

Only a few dozen worshippers attend Boston’s Tremont Temple Baptist Church on a typical Sunday, but the historic church was once so prominent that legendary preacher Dwight L. Moody called it “America’s pulpit.”

This week, Tremont’s massive auditorium played host to influence once again when 1,300 Christian leaders gathered for the Q conference to discuss the most pressing issues facing their faith. There was no official theme, but one strand wove its way through multiple presentations and conversations: America’s — and many Christians’ — debate over sexuality.

While at least three other Christian conferences during the past year focused on same-sex debates, this is the only one to bring together both pro-gay speakers and those who oppose gay marriage and same-sex relationships.

“The aim of Q is to create space for learning and conversation, and we think the best way to do that is exposure,” said Q founder Gabe Lyons.

“These are conversations that most of America is having, and they are not going away.”

Which is not to say Lyons’ decision was without controversy.

Eric Teetsel, executive director of the Manhattan Declaration project that aims to rally resistance to same-sex marriage, urged Lyons to rescind his invitations to pro-gay panelists, whom he called false prophets professing to be Christians. Owen Strachan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, echoed the sentiment and tweeted that he was “shocked that @QIdeas features pro-‘gay-Christianity’ speakers.”

Lyons did not respond publicly to the criticism, but said such positions were rooted in fear.

Anglican Communion’s New Secretary General Draws Praise from Africa, Condemnation Elsewhere

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The Most Reverend Josiah Idowu-Fearon preaches in Toronto on February 22, 2015. Photo via Michael Hudson / RNS

African Anglicans welcomed the appointment of a Nigerian bishop as the next secretary general of the 85 million-member Anglican Communion, even as others criticized the appointment because of his anti-gay comments.

Bishop Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon beat other applicants from Oceania, Asia, Europe, and the Americas and will assume the mostly ambassador-type post at a time when the worldwide communion remains estranged over homosexuality and same-sex marriages, especially in Africa.

“He is articulate and very well educated,” said Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa, Kenya, diocese.

“His position on traditional Anglicanism is very firm. This is good for us.”

Kalu said the appointment had come at the right time, when African Anglicans needed a bigger voice within the communion.

“The church is growing fastest here,” said Kalu.

Our American Spring: Shining a Little Light on Discrimination

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Spring’s sunlight shines on dandelions. Photo via Anton Watman / Shutterstock / RNS

Little by little, the direct sun of spring is vanquishing the snow of this long winter, and new life is starting to emerge.

Something similar is happening in my home state of Indiana, where the darkness met behind closed doors to conspire against certain citizens in the name of religion.

For a time, hatred prevailed. But then a more-direct sun began to shine in the American heartland, and people took notice of what the Republican-controlled Legislature and cowardly governor had done.

The people spoke out. It started with leaders in the tech community (Salesforce, Apple, Angie’s List) and, to my amazement, pillars of the sports establishment, such as the NCAA and NASCAR. Soon, citizens across Indiana and the nation condemned the state’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act as little more than legalized discrimination.

Did Jesus Really Never Say Anything About Homosexuality?

A gay couple holding hands. Image courtesy EpicStockMedia/shutterstock.com
A gay couple holding hands. Image courtesy EpicStockMedia/shutterstock.com

In the realm of biblical arguments in support of same-sex relationships, I’ve always found one — “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality” — to be particularly weak.

After all, Jesus also never said anything about rape, molestation, bestiality, torture, cyber-bullying, insurance fraud or elaborate pagan rituals involving self-mutilation and child sacrifice. That does not, by default, earn any of those things the Lord’s unconditional seal of approval.

What’s more, I’m not sure if the argument’s underlying premise is even true. Because, in the Gospels, Christ may indeed have failed to specifically broach the topic currently preoccupying the American Evangelical church, but he did address the subject, in a manner of speaking, in Matthew 22 and Mark 12.

In those two brief, but pivotal, passages of scripture, Jesus captures the essence of the Christian ethic, mission, calling and faith in an incredibly simple and beautiful way. And he did so, interestingly, not as a standalone teaching, but in answer to a question from his critics.

It starts when a group of Pharisees, taking the tag from the Sadducees — who had been silenced in the previous back-and-forth — descend on Jesus, with the goal of ripping open a can of good, old-fashioned pwnage, first-century style.

5 Takeaways from Pope Francis' Latest Interview

Photo via neneo / Shutterstock.com
Photo via neneo / Shutterstock.com

Gay marriage was never on the agenda at the recent Bishops’ Synod on the Family and the subject “did not cross our minds,” Pope Francis said in a new headline-grabbing interview.

Keeping to a format that has become a favorite for this pope, Francis used a high-profile interview to shed light on his thinking, and Vatican policies, on a number of hot-button social issues.

In an interview published Dec. 7, Francis told the Argentine daily, La Nacion, that the Catholic Church must help parents support  their gay children. At the same time, he maintained that allowing, condoning or even adapting to same-sex marriage was still not on the church’s agenda.

This was one of several controversial issues he broached in the interview with papal biographer Elisabetta Pique:

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